HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- A local Democratic state senator, certified by the state as receiving the most votes, was denied his seat in the Pennsylvania Senate in a raucous swearing-in day at the state Capital in Harrisburg.
Senate Republicans, who hold the majority, refused to let Pa. Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport take the oath of office. When Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, came to Brewster's defense, the Republicans removed him as presiding officer.
Pounding the gavel, Fetterman declared on Tuesday afternoon, "The Senate will now come to order."
The day began with Fetterman as president of the Senate, but when Republican senators tried to deny Democrat Brewster, certified with 69 more votes than his Republican challenger, the right to take the oath of office, Fetterman intervened.
"The chair does not find that in order," the Lt. Governor declared.
So then Republicans voted to remove Fetterman from the chair.
"The ayes are 14 and the nays are 11," declared President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican, "and the Lieutenant Governor has been removed from the Senate for the day."
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Fetterman kept repeating, "The chair will not cede the rostrum, the chair will not cede the rostrum, the chair will not cede the rostrum."
Fetterman would not budge, but Corman stepped in to chair from a different podium while Democrats read out loud the results for Brewster.
When Fetterman called on Brewster to take the oath, Corman refused to allow senators to be sworn in with Brewster present.
Ultimately, Brewster withdrew.
"I wanted the rest of the senators with their families here, and in some cases their children here, to be sworn in," Brewster told KDKA political editor Jon Delano after the event.
"I was disappointed and flabbergasted that they removed the Lieutenant Governor. I think that is a move that went too far," he said.
Brewster, who says the democratic process was stained by the Senate's actions today, believes he will ultimately be seated.
"I'm disappointed that it didn't happen, but at some point in time they're going to have to do that. The election's over. We won the election. We got more votes," he said.
But Nicole Ziccarelli, the Republican challenger who was in Harrisburg, hopes Senate Republicans will ultimately seat her by disqualifying mail-in ballots with un-dated outer envelopes already allowed by the state Supreme Court.
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"I have won the election in Senate District 45 after all legally cast ballots have been counted," she says.
In a statement late Tuesday, the Senate Republican caucus accused Fetterman of "highjacking" the order and decorum of the Senate, and said they would act without display of partisanship.
In still another court case on this election, a federal judge is expected to rule on the legality of the ballots soon.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, issued this statement on Brewster not being sworn in Tuesday:
"Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationally have spread disinformation and used it to subvert the democratic process. Sen. Jim Brewster rightfully won the 45th Senate District, but Senate Republicans are ignoring the voters in the district and refusing to swear him in as Senator. This is a shameful power grab that disgraces the institution.
"It is simply unethical and undemocratic to leave the district without a voice simply because the Republicans don't like the outcome of the election. Voters, not Harrisburg politicians, decided this election, and Sen. Brewster is the rightful winner.
"All ballots were counted and certified, and the results are accurate. Sen. Brewster received the most votes in this race and should be sworn in as the Senator for the 45th District. There is no precedent, and no legal rationale, for failing to do so.
"I will do everything in my power to ensure that voters have the final say in elections."
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