GOP leader shuts down state house over Penn State probe

    While we were stocking the fridge for our presidential debate-watching party last Wednesday, a fascinating battle was unfolding in the Pennsylvania state house over Gov. Corbett’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse investigation.

    When the dust settled, Speaker Sam Smith had abruptly closed the house session to prevent consideration of a resolution calling for a federal investigation of the probe.

    This all occurs in the context of Corbett’s sinking poll numbers and the prospect that he could face a serious challenge for re-election in two years.

    Corbett was state attorney general when that office investigated the Penn State assistant coach, and he’s bristled at criticism that the three-year probe proceeded too deliberately and left children at risk. Sandusky was convicted in June on charges he abused 10 boys, some on campus. He faces sentencing Tuesday.

    Democrats in the state house were determined Wednesday to force discussion of a resolution asking federal prosecutors to look into the investigation.

    Smith, the speaker, simply adjourned the session rather than letting the contentious debate proceed.

    According to this piece by Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press, Democratic House Leader Frank Dermody said he wanted to learn whether the timing of the investigation was manipulated to help Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign.

    A spokesman for the house Republican leadership said the Democrats were simply playing politics.

    It’s too early to say how vulnerable Corbett might be in his 2014 re-election. It’s been a long time since an incumbent governor lost in Pennsylvania.

    But it’s interesting that in addition to anger that it took so long for authorites to arrest Sandusky, there’s also some resentment against Corbett for taking down the late coach Joe Paterno, a beloved figure to many Pennsylanians.

    It’s a measure of the sensitivity of the issue that Smith would shut down the house rather than have a tense debate over it.

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