Lt. Gov. John Fetterman expects to move forward after Senate dispute
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said he isn’t harboring any ill will over the chaotic scene that unfolded Wednesday while he was presiding over the state Senate.
“I don’t take any of this personally,” he told the Tribune-Review on Thursday ahead of an expected vote on the state budget.
Shouting, name-calling and a brief walkout from Senate Democrats ensued Wednesday over a bill to end the general assistance program, which offers $200 per month to about 10,000 Pennsylvanians who are considered unable to work.
Republicans, who have been pushing to end the decades-old program, accused Democrats of violating Senate rules during a debate over the bill. They singled out Fetterman for leaving his post at the head of the floor, where he presides over the chamber, to speak with feuding lawmakers.
“When the Lt. Governor chose to leave the rostrum this afternoon, it was crucial for me to fulfill my Constitutional role to preside over the Senate,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, said in a tweet Wednesday.
The president pro tempore presides over the Senate when the lieutenant governor is not present.
Fetterman said he was attempting to deescalate the situation and to put senators at ease when he left the rostrum.
“This whole episode was unnecessary, and it just didn’t have to happen that way,” he said.
Actually, Mr. President Pro Tempore, the President of the senate made a good faith outreach to you and the leadership to broker a dignified conclusion to the debate.
Lamentably, you and your side chose a different path. https://t.co/jXs3sLiZRZ
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) June 26, 2019
The Republican-controlled chamber ultimately voted 26-24 to pass a bill to eliminate the program, with two Republicans voting with Democrats to save it.
The bill now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has not said whether we would sign or veto it.
Fetterman said he has not talked with Scarnati or others involved in the dispute Wednesday, but does not expect the incident to hold up the budget vote.
A statement from Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman described the scene as a “sad day for good government in Pennsylvania.”
“Senate Republicans remain committed to passing a budget and advancing other measures for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians in accordance with the rules of the Senate, and without the displays of partisanship and disrespect that we saw today,” the statement said.
When asked for further comment Thursday, a Senate Republican spokeswoman referred to the statement.
“We are moving forward with the budget and governing,” said Jennifer Kocher, who also works as Corman’s communications director.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .