House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler speaks to reporters on the House floor Monday, 12/12/2022 in a screen shot from video provided by the House Republican Caucus.
Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, was sworn in as House Republican leader on Monday in the latest act of brinkmanship over control of the General Assembly’s lower chamber.
Cutler’s early oath of office follows Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton’s swearing in last Wednesday, after which she declared herself House majority leader. She cited the election of Democrats to 102 of the House’s 203 seats in November as the basis for claiming leadership.
Republicans contested her claim, noting that one of the 102 Democrats elected is dead and two have resigned to take higher offices to which they were also elected Nov. 8. Cutler has accused House Democrats of a “paperwork insurrection,” with only 99 votes to the Republican Caucus’ 101.
“I was sworn in as Republican leader. It is the math that makes me the majority leader, at 101 to 99,” Cutler said in a gaggle with reporters after the brief swearing-in ceremony on the House floor.
At issue in the fight for control of the House is the selection of a date for three special elections that will determine which party is in the majority. The elections will fill the seats left vacant by Rep. Anthony DeLuca’s, D-Allegheny, death in October, and the resignations of Rep. Austin Davis and Summer Lee, both also Allegheny County Democrats.
Davis was elected lieutenant governor and Lee will be sworn in as the U.S. representative in the 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
Before Cutler’s term as speaker ended Nov. 30, he set a special election for DeLuca’s seat on Feb. 7. After she was sworn in last week, McClinton set special elections for all three vacant seats on Feb. 7. Cutler then filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman to halt the elections.
Special elections must be held at least 60 days from the date they are announced.
House Democratic Caucus spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said in a statement Monday that Cutler’s actions are an attempt to deny nearly 200,000 Allegheny County residents representation in the House, and noted that Cutler himself stressed the importance of timely elections when he chose the Feb. 7 election date.
“Attempting to delay these special elections past that agreed upon day means prolonging the period in which Pennsylvanians are without representation so that Republican leaders can advance extremist policies, in flagrant opposition to the message delivered by Pennsylvanians on Election Day,” Reigelman said.
On Monday, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee announced Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R- Northumberland, has been nominated to run for the vacant Senate seat of Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia, who resigned to serve as counsel to incoming Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland.
That means the House could have a fourth vacant seat after the election set for Jan. 31.
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