The Lead

Pa. House fails to override Wolf’s reopening veto

By: - May 20, 2020 7:28 pm

Then-House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler speaks at a 2019 press conference surrounded by the House Republican caucus (Capital-Star photo).

Playing its final trump card, Republicans in the state House failed to win enough votes Wednesday to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a bill that would have allowed hundreds of businesses, from manufacturers to pet groomers to reopen.

A veto override requires two-thirds of the 203 member chamber, or 136 votes. The override only garnered 115 votes — every Republican, as well as six conservative Democrats from the western and northeast parts of the state. Eighty-seven  Democrats opposed the measure.

Speaking on the House Floor, Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, argued that the bill would simply allow business owners to rebuild their livelihood as COVID-19 cases continue to decline in the Commonwealth.

“It’s a voluntary opening, with voluntary customers, that will hopefully be following the CDC guidelines,” Cutler said.

As of Wednesday, new cases of the disease have been on the decline for the past month. Wolf has already cleared 37 counties — 49 by this Friday — to begin reopening, including lifting stay-at-home orders and allowing most retail businesses to offer curbside services.

But experts have cautioned that a second wave of the pandemic is all but certain, and have pointed to limited state tracing and testing resources as a reason for caution.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, called the vote “nothing more than reckless theatrics.”

The bill had originally passed with 123 votes, still short of the override margin. Eight Democrats changed their vote.

Wolf had vetoed the bill Monday, claiming in his veto message that it was an “infringement on the authority and responsibility of the executive.” 

In showdown with lawmakers, Wolf vetoes reopening bills; then allows real estate agencies to reopen

Monday’s veto was one of three issued that day; he has vetoed five bills during the pandemic so far.

Wednesday’s vote was the first override attempt by the GOP-controlled chamber of the session. 

In his six years in office, Wolf has never had a veto overturned.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.