At Wednesday’s meeting concerning the Pennsylvania’s Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee’s election investigation, which saw Republicans winning a vote to subpoena voter records, Democrats fumed.
One angrily compared GOP colleagues to Joe McCarthy, the notoriously zealous anti-communist U.S. senator from Wisconsin who served from 1947 to 1957.
The committee ended up voting seven-to-four in favor of subpoenaing voter files on roughly 6.9 million Keystone Staters from the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Committee Chair Cris Dush (R-Wellsboro) opened his remarks to colleagues by decrying the unwillingness of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Secretary Veronica Degraffenreid to voluntarily cooperate in the Senate probe. He reasoned that subpoenaing the voter records, as well as a wide variety of communications between the state’s executive branch and county election boards, is necessary to proceed with an accurate analysis of the voting process in the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections.
Committee Democrats have suggested that the Republicans’ decision to subpoena the records should undergo a legal challenge based on the former party’s assertion that the subpoenas violate the commonwealth’s separation of legislative and executive powers. Opponents of the inquiry assert that examination of the voter records the committee demands is solely within the purview of the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Democrats on the committee objected to members of the state General Assembly, and whatever private investigatory vendor they end up hiring, getting access to voters’ social-security numbers and other inside information.
“The entirety of our proceedings today—issuing subpoenas—is based upon such a non-credible foundation, going well beyond and very troubling,” Minority Chair Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia) said in his opening statement. “And [it] in fact leads us to darker days in this country such as when hearings like these during the McCarthy era were held—when voices were silenced and liberties were denied, being bullied by the power of the government.”
Williams characterized the Senate probe of election procedures as “an attack on our right to vote.”
The minority chair’s invective was occasionally outdone by his colleague Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia).
“Republican members of the Senate will obviously have access to this information [being subpoenaed] and those Republican members of the Senate were involved in the insurrection,” Hughes said, referring to the extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. No member of the Pennsylvania legislature participated in the attack on the congressional building in Washington, D.C., though some state senators, including Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) who sits on the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, did attend the Capitol rally that day for then President Trump.
Dush responded to Hughes by instructing staff to momentarily mute microphones and blank the meeting’s online video stream. Dush explained that Hughes was in violation of Pennsylvania Senate Rule 10-2 which advises, “Any Senator addressing the Senate shall confine remarks to the question under debate, avoiding personal references or questions as to motive.”
Hughes would continue his line of argument and was reproved by Dush twice more during the former’s five-minute speech. Dush finally suspended his Philadelphia colleague from further orating during the meeting.
Williams was also warned early on by Dush to restrain his remarks pursuant to Rule 10-2 after the former accused Senate Republicans of “conspiring to change the results of [the 2020 general] election.”
“I’ve clearly laid out the purpose of this investigation and what it’s to be used for,” the majority chair said to his Democratic counterpart.
Last week, during the first meeting during the committee’s probe, Dush assured colleagues that he considered the 2020 presidential election in which Joe Biden won the presidency a settled matter. He insisted his committee’s proceedings will not have implications for that election’s results.
Further inconveniencing Democrats’ arguments that the Senate audit underway is an attempt to impugn the 2020 presidential results is Dush’s heavy reliance on a 2019 report by then Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a liberal Democrat, questioning the reliability of Pennsylvania’s voter records.
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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Pennsylvania Senate Meeting” by Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee.