Things escalated on Wednesday when Democrat Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, made the surprise announcement that she was sworn in as the House Speaker, even though three of the seats won by Democrats are now vacant; and the Speaker must be elected by the entire body, not just one party. One of the seats had been held by the late Rep. Tony DeLuca, who died before election day but whose name remained on the ballot. The two other seats were held by Democrats who were elected to other offices (Austin Davis to Lt. Gov, Summer Lee to U.S. Rep) and both resigned abruptly on Wednesday before McClinton’s surprise announcement.
So, while Democrats won 102 of the 203 seats in the House on election day, they currently now only have 99 actual members in office. House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, called McClinton’s move “a paperwork insurrection” and “illegitimate power grab.
In her self-appointed role, McClinton scheduled the special elections for all three vacancies for Feb. 7 – the same day proposed by Cutler in November to replace Rep. DeLuca’s Allegheny County seat. Which party controls the majority impacts the legislative agenda not only for passage of legislation, but because of the power to appoint committee chairmen because most bills either live or die, or get amended in the committee process before they ever reach the House floor.
We are not sure what will happen next but the actual legislative business of the state House of Representatives is in limbo until it is sorted out. Swearing-in day for members is January 3, 2023.