Reform work gives way to shouts, catcalls, curses in Harrisburg

    The day after Republicans and Democrats sat together at the State of the Union in Washington, their Harrisburg counterparts lobbed insults and curses during a Rules Committee meeting.

    What happened? The House had been set to vote on a package of reform bills Wednesday. After Democrats attached 43 amendments to the measures, an angry Majority Leader Mike Turzai accused the Democrats of obstructionism. He began the process of changing the House rules so it would be harder to amend measures from the floor.

    “We’re not going to be having people doing this nuclear stuff. So if that’s how it’s going to be done, we’re going to make the needed changes in [the Rules Committee], bring it out to the floor next Monday and get it done,” he said. “And then we can begin a disciplined and professional approach.”

    “Disciplined” and “professional” are just about the polar opposite of what happened during the committee meeting when Turzai introduced the resolution, which would also remove a Democrat from every House committee. He and Minority Leader Frank Dermody talked on top of each other when Turzai called the Democrats obstructionists.

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    “Stop making stuff up,” Dermody yelled, setting off a chorus of catcalls and boos from the Democrats in the audience. “That’s bull—!” “It’s a zoo!” and “King Mike!” were among the shouts reporters could make out.

    Democrat Joe Marksosek accused Republicans of “silencing the elected members of the General Assembly.”

    “We were elected just like you were. We know we’re in the minority…we were elected by our constituents. This muzzles our ability to represent our people, our districts,” he said, just before Turzai ordered an immediate vote on the resolution.

    Democrats kept yelling as the votes were tallied, and then stormed out of the committee room.

    “On a day when we’re supposed to be running reform bills, and reforming what we do and how we operate in government, here we are – they’re taking an attempt to punish the minority, and make sure they disenfranchise the minority,” said Dermody. “Stifle the minority and silence. It’s wrong.”

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