(The Center Square) – A group of conservative Pennsylvania lawmakers have embarked on an attempt to launch a special session of the Legislature – a move that would require convincing either the Democratic governor or many of their more moderate colleagues to join them to succeed.
The 32 legislators include one, Sen.-elect Cris Dush, who will be in the Senate in the 2021-22 session, and 31 who will be in the House of Representatives. In a news release from Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry Township, announcing the effort, they claimed that a special session is needed since the Legislature is not scheduled to convene its new session before Jan. 5, and they remain concerned about the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.
“There are numerous unanswered questions regarding the election that require a sitting General Assembly to examine and fulfill our duty to conduct oversight,” the news release, written in the form of a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, states. “A General Assembly in session is necessary to seek answers to these questions to help restore our citizens’ faith in the electoral process.”
In addition to requesting the special session, the lawmakers included 15 questions they want answered by the Wolf administration, including a list of “all private persons deputized to collect ballots through mobile pick-up efforts” and “shift logs and shift changes kept during election week for all workers and volunteers present in polling and tabulating locations.”
The lawmakers listed on the news release are largely the same ones who have been arguing for the past month that election irregularities call into question whether presumed President-elect Joe Biden truly defeated President Donald Trump to claim Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. Elections officials in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, along with Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, have already certified the election.
Wolf subsequently signed the order that sends a slate of electors for Biden to the Dec. 14 meeting of the Electoral College that formally selects the next president.
But that didn’t stop the introduction in late November of resolutions designed to question or even overturn that certification, which would put the fate of the electoral votes in the hands of the Republican-controlled chambers.
With the expiration of the 2019-20 session at the end of the day Nov. 30, those resolutions were automatically voided without ever having been considered. The Republican leaders in the House, Speaker Bryan Cutler and Kerry Benninghoff, declined to call their chamber into session on the final day, saying that resolutions require consideration on three or five separate days, depending on whether they are to be approved by just one chamber or by both, and thus holding session would be pointless.
Given that the Pennsylvania Constitution doesn’t call for the next session to begin until the first Tuesday of January, the only way further action could be conducted this year is via special session.
The governor isn’t the only one with the power to call a special session. If a majority of the lawmakers in each chamber were to sign a petition, that would be sufficient to launch one.
But Benninghoff and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman have repeatedly insisted that the Legislature should not intercede in the 2020 election, although they have supported looking into how the election was conducted with an eye toward reforms for future elections. With Democrats almost certainly uniformly against a special session, and moderate Republicans likely to follow their leaders’ example, the petition option would also seem to be unlikely to succeed.