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Dispute Over General Assistance Bill Causes Mayhem on Senate Floor

A fight on the state Senate floor over general assistance funding made waves in Harrisburg yesterday. 

House Bill 33, backed by GOP state lawmakers, aims at ending a general assistance program that provides $200 a month for “thousands of poor and disabled Pennsylvanians.” The bill passed 26-24 with two Republicans joining the unanimous Democratic opposition, but the tension on the floor was what garnered headlines from a multitude of news outlets. 

According to the AP, the “chaos” began when GOP Senators made a move to bar the Democrats from adding more than one amendment to the bill, which included keeping the benefits for domestic abuse survivors, and to “head off votes on amendments” that would keep the military veterans, cancer survivors and others for the program. 

While Democrats attempted to fight this move, Republicans, led by state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) took the gavel from Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to put the vote in motion. 

Democrats staged a walk off of the floor briefly before reentering the room to continue voicing their opposition to the bill. 

State Sen. Katie Muth (D-Montgomery) read a letter from a recipient of the general assistance program, while state Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) tried to end this reading by calling for a “point of order.” 

Corman pointed blame at Fetterman for not intervening and said his job was to enforce the rules and not be a “partisan hack.” He added that it was the “worst day in the Senate” since he’s been there, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star

In a tweet after the vote was taken place, Scarnati defended his decision to preside over the vote saying it was “crucial” for him to “fulfill my Constitutional role to preside over the Senate.” 

Gov. Tom Wolf, who opposes eliminating general assistance, has not said publicly if he will sign or veto it, due to the bill being tied to subsidies for Philadelphia hospitals, according to the AP.

18 Responses

  1. Attn Lt. Gov Fetterman, I have not received your rent payment for July, please forward without delay.

  2. Senator Corman was OUT OF CONTROL. You could never act that way in most bodies, courts, public, or private locations. He seems genuinely unstable.

  3. Boo hoo hoo hoo Jake. It is bemusing to see that Scarnati chose that moment to be concerned about the Pennsylvania Constitution.

  4. This is an obviously manufactured crisis by Leader Scarnati and Sen Corman to take attention away from the ultra disaster of Pa Gop Chair Val DiGiorgio. It is no coincidence that suddenly Corman’s “worst day in the Senate” just so happens to be right on the heels of one of the most embarrassing matters in recent times for the PaGop. And, of course, Lt. Gov Fetterman was the point of distraction to take Harrisburg attention away from PaGop Chair DiGiorio. Welcome to the political shark tank Lt. Gov Fetterman. Might be a good idea to read the rules of the Senate.

    1. Yes they created a utterly humiliating viral video sensation to to distract from a consensualy requested dick pic that’s 1M views and climbing.

      Fetterman took Lil’ Joe to class. That’s gonna leave a mark, I’m afraid. ????

      1. Roy-
        Not clear that it was a “consensual requested dick pic”. She asked for “a pic she could use”. (not “send me a dick pic”)

  5. Lt Governor Fetterman needs to be “hip” to the rules of the Senate and this cutesy “I’m not wearing a tie” routine only plays so long. This is serious business running the Senate and King Scarnati needs to respected as a tough foe and allowing him to out maneuver the Lt Governor is not a high watermark for the Wolf Administration. For sure, this most definitely would not have happened with former Lt Gov Stack.

    1. It’s true. Stack would have been home berating the staff for vacuuming to early and loudly. ????

      1. You are missing the point completely. It seems pretty clear that King Scarnati orchestrated an opportunity to get Lt. Governor Fetterman away from the gavel and basically used Fetterman’s lack of procedural knowledge against him and in the process effected a power play. This made Fetterman look unfamiliar with Senate procedures. King Scarnati took Lt. Gov. Fetterman to school here for sure. So, while you rehash former Lt. Gov. Mike Stack’s past sins and completely miss the point King Scarnati is having a procedural field day.

  6. Governor Wolf has allowed the R’s to get away with (1) No redistricting for fairness (2) No increase in minimum wage and must not sign this bill and let King Scarnati–who absolutely refuses to have a proper redistricting bill–know who is Governor of Pa and it is not King Scarnati. Kicking around the poor and the struggling in our society is not what the Democratic Party is about and on this matter there is no compromise–taking $200 a month from someone struggling is horrible!

  7. What does GOP expect a crippled veteran to do to survive? Maybe roll their wheelchair down to the local casino and beg gamblers to bet on a vet?

    1. Scarnati didn’t want to have to go on record as voting against crippled veterans. That’s why he pulled a fast one and now he to lie about it.

      He’s truly a turd in every regard. Guy would be a used car salesman were it not for getting a few thousand people to vote for him. (No offense to used car salesmen)

  8. Wow!! A whole $200 a month. Living large in PA. What does GOP expect recovering drug addict to do to survive? Maybe sell drugs?

    1. Gulag. You thought Stack was a Republican. You are a shmuck and should never be listened to. Ever.

  9. Anyone who witnessed this knows this is a poorly written article. Scarnati snuck up to the rostrum like a weasel and banged the gavel while Fetterman was talking to the Republicans after putting the Senate at ease.. Scarnati is a lying sleaze ball.

    1. Anyone who reads any article written by PPA staff knows that well written is an exception. They misrepresent facts and often times distort events with a slant towards their friends.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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