Senate Republicans sent a strong warning to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday: learn the rules of our chamber or cede your duties to someone else.
All 28 Senate Republicans signed a searing letter sent almost one week after Fetterman failed to enforce parliamentary rules against a member of his own party. The incident devolved into an unprecedented shouting match on the Senate floor.
In their letter, the Republican lawmakers said Fetterman “scarred the institution” of the Senate by ceding the floor to Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, last Wednesday, just before legislators voted 26-24 to eliminate a cash assistance program for poor Pennsylvanians.
They said his actions showed blatant disregard for the Senate rules, which were unanimously approved by senators at the start of the year. Among other actions, the Senate rules dictate how legislation gets passed and who can speak on the floor.
Fetterman admitted in a tweet last week that he gave Muth the floor “against Senate rules.”
Uh hey, expert guy, I gave her the floor * against senate rules* to read her letter. *That’s* what started this whole scene. 💡
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) June 29, 2019
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans threatened to immediately reassign Fetterman’s duties to another member of the Senate if he fails to enforce the rules again. They also said they wouldn’t object if Fetterman voluntarily gave up his Senate gavel.
In a statement issued by his press secretary Tuesday, however, the lieutenant governor said he plans to return to his presiding duties when the Senate concludes its summer recess.
“It’s time to move past the events of last week,” Fetterman said in a statement Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to rejoining my colleagues — from both sides of the aisle — when the Senate reconvenes in September to collectively work together for the people of this great commonwealth.”
Fetterman did not respond to the Senate Republicans’ allegation that he mistreated parliamentarian Megan Martin, who stands beside Fetterman when the Senate is in session and advises him on rules.
Martin, the Senate’s first female parliamentarian, was unanimously elected to her post seven years ago. In video footage of the June 26 incident, Fetterman does not acknowledge Martin as she gestures towards Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, who demanded that Fetterman “do his job” and recognize a motion from Republicans.
Senate Republicans called on Fetterman to publicly apologize to Martin, calling her “the sole individual who allows you to function when presiding, as your understanding of our rules in negligible and your disdain for presiding is abundantly clear.”
The letter, which was also sent to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, came one day after Muth was a guest on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” where she announced she would introduce new legislation to replicate the General Assistance program.
Muth appeared on the national, prime-time news program after a video montage of the incident went viral over the weekend. The clip, edited and annotated by the left-leaning media site NowThis News, was shared by Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
At a press conference in Pennsylvania’s Capitol on Tuesday, a top Republican staffer said the video was unfairly edited to promote Democratic interests. He also said the national attention exposed Senate Republicans, particularly Corman, to “hundreds” of hateful messages, including death threats and threats of sexual assault.
“We’ve all been subject [to] filthy, horrific threats,” said Drew Crompton, chief of staff and counsel to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. “I’ve never seen anything like I’ve seen in the last 48 hours.”