As several GOP senators prepare to oppose the 2020 election results at today’s congressional meeting, they offered a teaser of the anticipated chaos by staging a coup at yesterday’s Pennsylvania Senate swearing-in ceremony, where they refused to seat a Democratic member who won reelection. Now a video of the circus has gone viral on Reddit.
Republicans made a motion not to seat Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster, CNN reports. When Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman objected to the motion, Pennsylvania Republicans hijacked the ceremony and voted to remove him from presiding, as seen in a series of viral videos.
GOP State Sen. Ryan Aument introduced the motion to not seat Brewster, which Fetterman shot down. Then, Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman invoked a motion “to replace Lt. Governor who has refused to perform his duties.”
Corman’s address earned a sharp rebuke from Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Pa.), who told him, “Mr. President, I totally object to this. … You are breaking the Constitution and the laws of the commonwealth and violating the oath of office you have actually taken.”
His voice cracking, Williams continued, “There is nothing about this day that is appropriate. Nothing. And we will not lay down and roll over because you got… four more folks on that side of the aisle. This is about Pennsylvania, not Democrats or Republicans. This is not about simply winning. It’s about protecting our democracy.”
Williams’ furious protest was ultimately in vain, as Republicans took a roll call vote to remove Fetterman from presiding. Fetterman left the chamber as the senators proceeded to swear in all new members except for Brewster.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) condemned the coup in a Tuesday statement, calling it “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,” Wolf continued. “Voters, not Harrisburg politicians, decided this election, and Sen. Brewster is the rightful winner.”
A video of the chaotic scene posted on the r/publicfreakout subreddit has received more than 25,000 upvotes and nearly 3,000 comments.
“Isn’t this like... a huge deal?” one user asked. “Like blasted on every channel to inform everyone what just happened? But I find this out casually scrolling on Reddit.”
Another commenter noted that the GOP’s vote to remove Fetterman was likely unconstitutional. Article 2 Section 9 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania states that the Senate can elect a member pro tempore to perform the duties of the lieutenant governor “in any case of absence or disability of that officer.” As Fetterman was present and able-bodied, there seemed to be no justification for removing him from presiding.
“What are you gonna do about it? That's the big wedge the republicans have realized they have,” another user responded.
Many people who watched Tuesday’s Senate proceedings were distressed by how seemingly hopeless the situation was.
“Do we sharpen our guillotines now?” one redditor asked.
Another responded, “No, we just make jokes about it on the internet.”