The $64,000 question for today – what is going to happen in Harrisburg?

HARRISBURG – It’s swearing in day in Harrisburg and it will be far from routine.

There are three open seats in the House of Representatives, all three were won by Democrats. So going in to the day, there are 101 Republicans seated in the House and 99 Democrats. 

One of the vacant seats is because the candidate who won passed away on October 9. The other two have candidates that resigned in order to move to other political positions – on in the US House of Representatives and one as PA Lieutenant Governor. There will be special elections in the future to determine who will fill those seats – all three are from Allegheny County.

Because there will not be someone physically in the seats, the Republicans will have the majority in the House today with 101 members. That could change after the special elections – and it could be the catalyst that makes this swearing in quite a spectacle.

At 9:30 a.m. today, House Republicans will hold a caucus to decide who will be their choice for Speaker of the House.

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “We don’t have that yet.”

While Representative Brian Cutler is the Republican leader of the House, he has not put his name in the ring for speaker. There are at least three other Republicans up for speaker including Valerie Gaydos from Pittsburgh, Tina Pickett from Tioga County and John Lawrence from Chester County.

The constitutional swearing in will happen at noon on the House floor. After that, the entire body will elect the Speaker of the House.

Kauffman said, “If things go as they would usually go, a Republican will be elected. Whoever the Republicans select in their caucus room this morning will be the one who is elected speaker.”

The Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives will be the presiding officer and will conduct the ceremony.

A few weeks ago, the Democrat leader, Joanna McClinton, had a judge swear her in as presiding officer, apropos of nothing.

So after the official swearing in, the Republicans will nominate their candidate and the Democrats will nominate their candidate.

That’s when the whole thing could get interesting.

Kauffman said, “It will be a public vote, so everybody will see how their representatives are voting. My gut says what’s going to happen, I do believe we’re going to elect whatever Republican we select in the caucus earlier in the morning, I believe that person will be elected as the speaker for tomorrow. The question will be, does that person get any extra vote or two from the Democrat side of the aisle? Will there be kind of an overture saying let’s just stick with this person for the entire session or is it a strictly party-line vote and we’re headed into battle royale after special elections, whenever that would be.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “There’s also the possibility she’s (McClinton) going to pull something about no, we really have the majority. But the votes are the votes, right? That’s why I don’t understand how she can pull anything between now and the special election.”

Kauffman said, “It’s possible she tries something. When you have basic math, I don’t think she can do anything to pretend that 101 isn’t 101 and 99 isn’t 99. The discrepancy would be if a Republican would shift and vote their way, which I can’t see it, but you know there are always a couple weasely RINOS in the crew. I don’t think it’s likely, but is it possible? I’m not discounting that as not possible. Just like it’s possible that we would have a Democrat from Beaver County or a Democrat from Cambria County who says ‘I’m going to vote with the Republicans because I can’t let my constituents see me vote for that crazy liberal progressive black lady from Philadelphia.”

There have been a number of promises on both sides to try to get their candidates elected.

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “To me it’s stunning that any Republican is thinking of doing this, but then we just saw what happened at the Senate at the federal level. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, but honestly, at this point with what we’re facing in the state, with all the ideology that’s being forced through laws, any Republican that would cross party lines and do this, I think their name would be mud. I can’t even imagine Republicans in any part of the state supporting that kind of a move right now.” 

Should one of the Republican nominees be sworn in by the entire House, the term of service could be quite short, depending on when the special elections occur to fill the three remaining seats – or, the person could hold onto the leadership role.

Kauffman said, “If we got extraordinarily fortunate and lucky, maybe it could be two years and I hope it is. There’s just so much uncertainty there. My number one criteria for who we elect in our caucus room this morning to be our designee is somebody who is going to unite the caucus, who is going to win on the House floor and maybe even can grab a couple of Democrat votes to keep the majority.”

Some people are wondering if McClinton will give the power up until the special elections.

Kauffman confirmed, “There is no doubt there will be some extraordinary shenanigans this morning. It’s going to happen. She will stop at nothing. There are rumors that she and her caucus want her to be the first black female Speaker of the House and if there’s any possibility that a female from our side of the aisle could be the first female Speaker of the House, they will lay down in the middle of the road before that happens and potentially, they could even nominate a Republican male because they want her. It’s all about the identity politics for them, so they want her to be the first female and black female as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

This whole thing can be seen on television on Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Kauffman said, “I would say that’s going to be must watch TV.”