The Lead

Pa. House falls short on COVID-19 emergency order veto override

By: - September 2, 2020 5:29 pm

The floor of the Pa. House of Representatives (Capital-Star photo).

The Republican-controlled state House failed to muster the votes Wednesday to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of a resolution that sought to overturn the Democratic governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration, which shuttered businesses and imposed restrictions on public gatherings.

The House’s 118-84 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Wolf’s executive action. Republicans and their allies have complained since the state went into lockdown in March that Wolf has abused his authority as the state fought to manage the pandemic.

That drumbeat continued to sound Wednesday.

State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, who sponsored the measure said he was surrendering authorship of the bill because “it belongs to the people of Pennsylvania.”

House Repubs prep for possible override vote on Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration veto

“We are acting on behalf of the waiters and waitresses, who at 25 percent [maximum restaurant occupancy], can’t make a living,” Diamond said during remarks on the House floor.

The central Pennsylvania lawmaker was roundly thumped by the chamber’s Democrats when he claimed that “the crisis part of the coronavirus is behind us. It is in the rearview mirror.” The state, he added, now suffered from a “crisis of fear” that the the veto override would undo.

The state Health Department reported 816 new positive cases of COVID-19 at midday Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 135,611. Statewide, 7,691 Pennsylvanians have died of the virus, according to the Health Department data.

Rep. Mike Zabel, D-Delaware, took the floor, saying he wanted to apologize on Diamond’s behalf to the Pennsylvania families, and families nationwide, who had lost loved ones to the disease.

“It is very real. It is a danger. And we will put your safety first and foremost,” Zabel said.

On Monday, Wolf signed an order extending the declaration for 90 more days, saying it would provide the state with “the resources and support needed” to continue fighting the pandemic, PennLive reported. Republicans have complained about the administration’s guidance limiting occupancy at bars and restaurants, arguing that it had had a debilitating effect on business owners, particularly in smaller communities across the state.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.