Compromise in Pennsylvania: State speaker to be independent

Dan Abrams Live

(NewsNation) — As Republicans in congress feud over who should serve as speaker of the House, state lawmakers in Pennsylvania got themselves out of a partisan pickle.

Both parties in the state initially declared the majority, sparking a fight for control of the Pennsylvania State House.

Democrats technically won more Statehouse seats in Pennsylvania by just one seat, in theory, making it 102 to 101. But one of the state representatives who won died in October, a month before the election. There was reportedly not enough time to take his name off the ballot, so he still won. Then, two other Democratic state representatives who won reelection later resigned because they were elected to a higher office.

Some Republican lawmakers in the state believed those vacancies flipped the balance of power, giving them the majority, 101 to 99. But Democrats insisted that voters want Democratic lawmakers filling those seats.

For some time, neither side backed down. Each party even held swearing-in ceremonies. Democrats swore in Rep. Joanna McClinton as majority leader and acting speaker. House Republicans swore in Representative Bryan Cutler.

Tuesday, Democrats and some Republicans came together to elect state Rep. Mark Rozzi as speaker. In a surprise to some lawmakers, Rozzi, a Democrat, pledged to govern as an independent.

“Never has this House been so divided not just by numbers, but by beliefs. And carrying out the functions of this office, I pledge to put people above politics and the institution before ideology. I will tolerate no caucus and no member trying to outmaneuver the other. I will not tolerate incivility or a lack of decorum. Sometimes Republicans will win, sometimes Democrats will win,” Rozzi said.

Since the speaker of the House in Pennsylvania is more of an institutional role, it does not fully resolve the question of who the majority leader is.

“The point here is that the moderates from both parties worked together to figure out a solution, at least for now, a politically moderate one. And it’s precisely because no one had expected the parties to work together,” NewsNation host Dan Abrams commented.

Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gregory nominated Razzi as speaker. He appeared on “Dan Abrams Live” to speak about the process.

Gregory says lawmakers were sitting on the House floor waiting to adjourn when he thought of Razzi for the position.

“We were sitting on the floor waiting to adjourn, which means if we adjourn, we have given up hope of coming back with any opportunity to have any impact on the calendar of how bills run and what bills run because we were going to come back into minority … I offered up my friend Rozzi, who I’ve worked so very hard with the last four years,” Gregory said.

Gregory said many Democrats did not know Razzi would switch over to being an independent speaker until he made his speech to members of the House.

“I’ve seen some posts by some of their members on social media that are outraged at what Mark has proposed to do. Yeah, and they are going to cast him out and push him away, which is unfortunate, because by doing so they are actually pushing him further away,” Gregory said.

At the end of the day, Gregory said, with their 101 to 101 and one situation in the House, lawmakers will have to work together to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania.

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