Pa. Senate Republicans denounce violence but stop short of accepting election results

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

This story was updated at 9:51 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6 with a statement from Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Republican leaders in Pennsylvania’s state Senate were silent Wednesday night as Congress announced plans to resume counting Electoral College votes, even though days earlier they had urged federal lawmakers to delay the procedure.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to denounce the violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, where a group of pro-Trump extremists attempted an armed insurrection that lasted nearly four hours.

The insurrection forced lawmakers into lockdown while in the midst of certifying the results of the presidential election – a usually ceremonial procedure that’s a prerequisite for President-elect Joe Biden to take his oath of office.

A caucus spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment asking whether Senate Republican leaders stood by the letter they sent to Congressional Republicans Monday, urging them to delay the certification.

The letter was the latest move by legislative Republicans in Pennsylvania to baselessly cast doubt on Biden’s electoral victory in the state, where he defeated Trump by 81,000 votes.

As reported by the news outlet SpotlightPA, the letter that Ward, Corman and 19 of their Senate Republican colleagues signed did not allege the vote was tainted by fraud, as some Republican lawmakers have. 

Instead, the signatories said that guidelines from the Wolf administration and directives from courts led to “inconsistencies” in the way counties administered mail-in voting and needed further investigation.  

One Republican lawmaker who signed the letter says he changed his mind after seeing the historic violence unfold at the Capitol.

“I hope [Congress] resumes the count to certify tonight, as soon as it is safe to do so,” State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, said. “I do not support any further delay. I am sickened by what I have seen today.”

Other rank-and-file members could not be reached by phone or text message. 

At least one other Senate Republican attended a pro-Trump protest outside the Capitol Wednesday.

An image posted to Facebook shows Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, posing with former state House Rep. Rick Saccone, who represented an Allegheny County House district for nearly a decade and made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2018.

In a since-deleted video – filmed without Mastriano – Saccone says protesters planned to charge the Capitol building and “run out all the evil people and [Republicans] who have betrayed our president.”

Mastriano’s office did not immediately confirm whether he set foot in the Capitol building. But the Senator said in a statement Wednesday night that he and his wife traveled to Washington, D.C. “to support President Trump” and did not join the mob that stormed the Capitol.

“When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out,” Mastriano said in the statement condemning the Capitol takeover. “At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines.”

At least one Senate Democrat called for Mastriano’s resignation Wednesday, while another said caucus leaders should hold the lawmaker “accountable for [his] actions.”