PA House of Representatives elects leadership

HARRISBURG – When it comes to the General Assembly, a lot of the power resides in the leadership roles and elections in Pennsylvania were held yesterday in Harrisburg.

Earlier this week Bryan Cutler from Lancaster County, the current Speaker of the House, was elected leader of the Republican Caucus. Tim O’Neal from western PA was elected Republican Whip.

Representative Rob Kauffman anticipates maintaining his position as House Judiciary Chair.

He said, “Those conversations are still to be had, but that is done by the caucus leadership.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “The tone that was in the room at the time, was there acknowledgement of the unbelievable mistake of giving us a five week mail-in voting? Was that acknowledged?”

Kauffman said, “It’s interesting. Representative Cutler was leader when that was ushered in. It was pointed out that he was the one who brought that in. I wouldn’t say there was a keen acknowledgement of that. There was acknowledgement of the great task ahead of us to regain the outright majority and what we’ve got to do. I think there’s an acknowledgement all around that we have to operate in the same manner as the Democrats have and go full in towards the mail-in ballots.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Act 77 was brought to the floor by Cutler?”

“He was the majority leader when that was brought in, yes,” Kauffman confirmed.

The other candidate for Republican Caucus leader yesterday was Representative Paul Schemel and he made note of that.

Jansen said, “Is there going to be any changes based on it? I’m not just finger pointing here. I want there to be a change where you just don’t blindly follow a leadership. Who knows how bamboozled they were or whatever their motivation was for working with the Wolf administration for coming up with that disastrous and I’m going to repeat that there was a voter integrity person that week that said Pennsylvania went from one of the most secure and stable, steady voting processes in the country to the disaster we have now. I know COVID affected it, but still, there were so many things left not locked solid in that, left vague in that and the fact that you all were shut out of that and leadership mostly just did it and then said hey, you guys vote for it, is still stunning to me. What I would like to hear from Cutler is we’re going to stop doing that and we’re going to have our actual legislators participate and represent their people and not just take it over at the leadership level.”

Control of the House is still up for grabs. There are three seats that will have to go through a special election next spring to ultimately determine whether the Democrats or Republicans will control the House. However it works out, it will be a very slim majority.

The three seats are ensconced in heavily Democratic territory.

Kauffman said, “That slim majority is going to necessitate that there is a buy-in from everybody in whatever caucus that is controlling the chamber on any given thing because very frankly, if one person…in the Republican caucus that says we can’t do it that way, that is going to mean there are big problems. Governing in a slim majority like that is going be extraordinarily difficult and there is going to have to be real buy-in. I think it’s important to note that in the Republican leadership team, I would say from my perspective as one of the more conservative members of the House Republican Caucus that the conservative faction of the caucus was left out of the leadership team. I would not say from my perspective that there is anyone from the most conservative 25 or so members that is represented on that leadership team. So they are going to have their work cut out for them in making sure they work with all of us to stay together.”

Jansen said, “Stop it with the experts. Stop letting these expert groups and panels take over for you guys, which is what the moderates have done and now they’ve left the conservatives out of the leadership team. Are they learning their lesson at all?”

Ryan huffed, “Oh, they’re not going to learn their lesson. There’s nothing that’s going to get done here at all. Here’s what I really want to know about. What are you guys doing in these places we could flip the majority on the Republican side here. Is anybody stepping up to protect the House? Is there anybody talking about making sure that we’ve got a ground game going on.”

“At least try,” Jansen suggested.

“Do we have a game out in those places?” Ryan asked.

Kauffman said, “There’s absolute acknowledgement that those are the places we need to take our fight right now.”

Will the Republicans fight during those special elections this spring? If so, control of the House could fall Republican.

Kauffman said, “Carrie DelRosso is a strong candidate. She defeated the Democrat leader two years ago. This is an open seat and we do believe that she would be a strong candidate. I’ve had communications with her. I do believe Senator Mastriano has as well and there are many in House Republican leadership and caucus who have as well. It’s not a matter oh we’re just going to put a candidate up. She’s a fighter. We’re going to take the fight to them in that district.”

Ryan said, “We need to have a game and if we’re just going wring our fingers and do nothing, then I put that on Cutler, I put that on you. I put that on whoever. The Republican leadership needs to get out there and kick some ass and hold the line against a Shapiro. You blew it on Shapiro. You blew it on Fetterman. We better get it right when it comes to this race because we’ll still have the House for a couple of months in the beginning part of the year, correct?”

Kauffman confirmed, “That is what it seems like is that we will likely have the majority for the interim before the special elections. We can win this and it’s going to be a matter of playing the ground game better than the Democrats. Remember also special elections, Republicans are very effective at getting out the vote and then on top of that, if we can take the mail-in ground game to them there in that district, I believe it’s winnable. There is recognition in Harrisburg that this is our next fight.”