Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) was removed by the state Senate’s Republican majority from presiding over the first day of the new session on Tuesday, after the top state official refused to recognize a motion that would have prevented an elected Democratic senator from being sworn in.
Chaos quickly ensued.
The Republican majority refused to seat Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster, whose election was certified by the state, but is being by disputed by his GOP challenger, who is asking a federal judge to throw out the election result.
Democrats in the state Senate protested the Republicans’ move, which included Fetterman insisting that Brewster be seated with the other senators.
Republicans then voted on a motion to remove Fetterman as the presiding officer, before going on to voting on another motion to recognize the election in every Senate contest, except for Brewster’s.
In a phone interview with TPM on Tuesday afternoon, Fetterman expressed his dismay that “things devolved into the chaotic situation.”
“It was every intention to avoid that situation, where we could have emerged with our respective dignity intact,” Fetterman said. “But unfortunately, it was clear that wasn’t going to be possible and you saw the chaos that unfolded.”
“It didn’t have to go this way,” Fetterman added, noting that there were negotiations to avoid such a public mess.
Fetterman stressed that “there was literally no need” for the fracas by Republicans and that he wanted to be clear that the credentials that Brewster had to take his seat were
“identical to any other senator that was sworn in that day from either party.”
“You can’t get in a position where one party is determining, well, who wins and who can be seated and who can’t,” Fetterman said.
Fetterman connected the move by Republicans to remove him from presiding over the chamber as a “symptom of the national” that is “toxic” and “corrosive to the Democratic franchise.”
Fetterman argued that the scene was “indefensible” before going onto clarify to TPM that he was referring to the influence that President Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans have amid their efforts to delegitimize the election process.
“For the last two months, I’ve been forced to defend the electoral integrity of our state and and from attacks from everybody that are all unfounded — all lies,” Fetterman said. “And this idea that the truth is not something that you need to acknowledge is insane.”
Fetterman aired his grievances over Republicans’ “level of fealty and devotion” to challenging the election process.
“It’s truly bizarre,” Fetterman said. “And in this particular case, this is a senator for more than a decade in good standing who was certified the winner, the Supreme Court even upheld it. What on earth gives you the right not to seat this individual?”
Fetterman reiterated that “every effort was made to avoid this kind of chaos” and that “this was not a split second decision.”
“Like every effort from the highest levels was made to avoid this happening. It just comes down to what would have been a simple, civil and, I think, legal compromise to have a conditional appointment,” Fetterman said. “And however the court case went, that’s who would ultimately fill the seat. It did not need to to go this way, and that’s the tragedy.”