GOP-controlled Pa. Senate panel to vote Wednesday on subpoenas in election probe | Monday Coffee

The GOP ups the ante in its inquiry into alleged ‘irregularities’ in the 2020 election. Dems dismiss it as a ‘disgraceful’ waste of time

September 13, 2021 7:06 am

Then-state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson. Dush now chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, which is probing the 2020 election (Capital-Star file)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A Republican-controlled state Senate panel looking into alleged irregularities in the commonwealth’s elections will meet on Wednesday morning in Harrisburg to vote on whether to slap the Pennsylvania Department of State with subpoenas after the agency took a pass on the panel’s opening meeting last week.

The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Room 8-EB in the Capitol’s East Wing, according to a statement issued late last Friday night. by a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre.

“The subpoenas are expected to include communications and other election records from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The meeting follows a hearing [last week] in which Department of State officials refused to testify,” the statement, which is attributed to Dush, reads.

The Department of State declined the invitation, citing pending litigation, the Capital-Star’s Marley Parish reported last week.

Pa. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre | Capital-Star file photo

In a testy statement issued earlier in the day on Friday, Corman, the chamber’s top Republican, blasted the election oversight agency, accusing it, and the Democratic Wolf administration, of a “dereliction of duty,” and said it “continues a troubling pattern of refusing to take accountability for weaponizing an agency that is supposed to be non-partisan.”

That taxpayer-funded hearing, held last Thursday, was intended to focus on the guidance the Department of State issued to counties ahead of last November’s election. To say it turned into something of a dog-and-pony show would do disservice to hardworking dogs and ponies the world over.

The only witness to show up, Fulton County Commissioners’ Chairman Stuart Ulsh, told the panel that while the agency’s guidance was “confusing,” there was no evidence of any fraud.

Which raises the question of why it’s even being conducted in the first place.

Two post-election reviews — a statistical sampling required by law and a risk-limiting audit — were conducted after the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. Sixty-three out of the commonwealth’s 67 counties participated in the risk-limiting audit pilot, and neither assessment found evidence of fraud.

Certified results show that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania. In the same cycle.

Dush has said the review his panel is conducting is not a recount. Instead, it is the first in a series of public meetings aimed to evaluate the state’s election code and “restore confidence in the electoral process,” Dush argued.

“This investigation is not about overturning the results of any election as some would suggest,” Dush said last week, adding that the review will not lead to the reinstatement of former President Donald Trump. “That horse is out of the barn as far as this investigation is concerned.”

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, questions Wolf administration officials during a Feb. 13, 2019 budget hearing in the Capitol. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Dush also has said his panel’s proceedings could lead to changes in Act 77, the 2019 state law approved with overwhelming Republican support, that expanded no-excuse, mail-in balloting in the commonwealth.

The law, which also had Gov. Tom Wolf’s backing, not only enabled Republicans to expand their legislative majorities in the state House and Senate, but also to capture two of the state’s three elected row offices. All nine GOP members of the state’s Congressional delegation similarly won re-election under its auspices.

Nonetheless, the GOP has been working since last fall to try to knock the legs out from under the law, arguing that it’s riddled with problems. In the state House, 14 Republicans are currently suing to overturn the law. Eleven of them voted in favor of it at the time, the Capital-Star previously reported.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, speaks on the Senate floor (Capital-Star file)

Senate Democrats slammed the GOP’s gambit in a statement of their own, dismissing it as a “disgraceful” waste of the chamber’s time and the taxpayers’ money. The subpoenas, they added, just for good measure, are “unlawful.”

The announcement “completely contradicts what their own committee chairman stated on the record [Thursday] about how this is not about the rehashing last year’s election, but rather looking forward to see what needs to be changed in our state election laws,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said. “This is their latest attempt to disenfranchise voters and undermine the integrity of our electoral system.”

Costa added that he found it “disgraceful that Senate Republicans have chosen to waste precious time and resources at the expense of taxpayers calling into question the legitimacy of an election in which the rest of this Commonwealth and nation has put behind them.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

In this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller dives into some data looking at the enrollment toll the pandemic has taken on community colleges.

Indigenous women in the U.S. earn 60 cents on the dollar compared to white men, our sibling site, Source: New Mexico reports, citing new research.

In a pair of stories, our crackerjack national team goes deep on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill now before Congress. From National Correspondent Jacob Fischler, an explainer on the four, big climate change items in the sprawling legislation. And from Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa, a rundown on the universal pre-kindergarten and free community college the bill would pay for if it’s eventually signed into law.

In a new poll commissioned by a progressive interest group, a majority of Pennsylvanians said they’d support ending hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the process used to extract natural gas from the ground, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

And from Saturday, Staff Reporter Marley Parish talked to a trio of former Ridge administration aides about their memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Texas is using bounty hunters to enforce its abortion law. Welcome to the thugocracy, opinion regular Dick Polman writes. And Pennsylvania lawmakers have better, and more pressing, ways to spend their time than conducting sham election reviewsDeborah Rose Hinchey, of the advocacy group Better PA, writes.

En la Estrella-CapitalUn día de ‘amistad’: Hispanos de Pa. se reúnen para conmemorar el Día de la Independencia de México. Y las audiencias de redistribución se trasladaron ahora que la Cámara de Representantes de Pa. planea un regreso temprano al Capitolio.

Yetta Timothy, a 27-year veteran certified nursing assistant, speaks on the Capitol steps at a rally to increase nursing home staffing on March 26, 2021. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)


Health care staffing shortages could get worse because of expiring pandemic waivers, Spotlight PA reports (via the Inquirer).

The Tribune-Review runs down what parents need to know as pediatric COVID cases climb statewide.

Doctors are wary of a ‘twindemic’ of overlapping COVID and flu cases this fall, PennLive reports (paywall).

The state is investigating a Lebanon physician who’s issuing ‘mask exemption’ formsLancasterOnline reports.

An elementary school in Bethlehem has temporarily shut down because of a COVID outbreak, the Morning Call reports.

A Luzerne County councilmember has proposed protecting county workers from the Biden White House’s vaccine mandate, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Pennsylvania business groups are reserving judgments on the White House’s vaccine mandate, WESA-FM reports.

WHYY-FM looks at how President Joe Biden’s Pennsylvania supporters are grappling with the country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners and losers in state politics.

City & State Pa. runs down what to watch for this week in Harrisburg.

For the first time in decades, Congress is moving closer to providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
10 a.m., 140 MC: House and Senate Local Government committees
                                  10:30 a.m., Somerset, Pa: Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee
1 p.m., 515 Irvis: House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m., Lancaster, Pa.: Golf tournament for the House Republican Campaign Committee                                                        9 a.m., Wallingford, Pa.: Golf outing for Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Delaware   Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out an utterly appalling $25,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out to veteran progressive advocate Anne Wakabayashi, and to my former PennLive colleague, and stalwart reader, Shannon Wass, of Harrisburg, both of whom celebrated on Sunday. Up-to-date best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star opinion contributor Frank PizzoliWITF-FM reporter Brett Sholtis, and Samantha Pearson, in the office of state Rep. Mary IsaacsonD-Philadelphia, all of whom complete another trip around today. Congratulations all around.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some new music from England’s The Vaccines. From their new LP, ‘Back in Love City,’ here’s the album track ‘El Paso,’ which sounds like a dream of the desert.

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
As is its custom, the Guardian has 10 talking points from this weekend’s round of Premier League action, including a hard-working West Ham coming up short in a goalless draw with Southampton.

And now you’re up to date.

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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.