Pa. Senate debate descends into chaos: ‘Please take control’

Tony Romeo
June 26, 2019 - 6:37 pm

Tony Romeo/KYW Newsradio

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Bedlam erupted today as the Pennsylvania state Senate debated legislation to end general assistance payments for some low-income residents.

That bill is now on its way to the governor.

The shouting began when Republicans invoked a parliamentary maneuver to prevent consideration of amendments to the bill offered by Democrats.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who presides over the Senate, declared the Senate at ease.

However, Republican Joe Scarnati, the top-ranking senator who presides over the chamber in Fetterman’s absence, took control of the gavel.

“On the motion, the clerk will call the roll,” Scarnati said.

“Mr. President…Mr. President please take control of the chamber! Mr. President, the lieutenant governor,” called Jay Costa, minority leader.

“The Senate will come into order! Call the roll,” Scarnati said while the gavel banged.

After a brief recess, the Senate resumed amid more shouting when a Democratic member was allowed to read a statement over the objections of Republicans.

Republicans say Fetterman was not following Senate rules.

“Mr. President your job is to enforce the rules of the Senate, not to be a partisan hack," Costa said.

Added into the bill that would eliminate the $200 monthly general assistance payments is language providing money for Philadelphia hospitals.

A spokesman says Governor Wolf will evaluate the now final bill.

It was one of the tensest situations in the Senate in recent decades.