“How many more victims are the Democrats willing to allow in order to preserve their power?”
That was the question asked by Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) at a press conference on Monday as Republicans blasted House Democratic leadership for its lack of action in the face of allegations of sexual harassment by one of their own.
White was joined by GOP Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and first-year Delaware Valley Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) as they slammed the Democrat majority leadership for not starting the session on time and refusing to form an ethics committee to deal with allegations against a fellow Democrat.
“We have no rules, no committees,” White said. “We’re stuck on the sidelines. A train derailment that has not been seen in the last 100 years occurred just across our border and continues to impact the commonwealth. No emergency declaration was issued, and no committee formed so members could respond to the disaster,” Cutler noted.
He said the courts also handed down a decision in a historic education funding case, and the House needs to be organized into committees to deal with the issue. Also, many constituents received their highest electric bills ever last month, “and we can do nothing,” he said.
“And most concerning, there was a credible sexual harassment accusation publicly made before the House speaker. So far, to my knowledge, there have been no steps taken to investigate, and we have been blocked from starting a committee just last week,” he added. “Enough is enough.”
The new regular session was supposed to begin on Monday, but a Democratic House member’s absence to attend a funeral could deny the party its majority. So it was switched to a non-voting session day.
“We are once again in a waiting game while nothing gets done,” Cutler said. The beginning of the newest regular session of the Pennsylvania House was delayed again Monday with a shift to a non-voting session day. If the rules were developed in a bipartisan fashion as has occurred in prior sessions, “one member missing wouldn’t have mattered to the vote total,” Cutler said.
The House is split 102-101.
Marcell and White expressed their outrage that nothing has been done to investigate and take action regarding the Democratic representative accused of sexually harassing a lobbyist at one of Speaker Mark Rozzi’s listening meetings.
“No one should suffer the emotional trauma of being harassed for simply doing their job. That is why last week I hand-delivered a letter to Speaker Rozzi and Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware), asking them to do everything in their power to remedy the situation,” White said. She received no response, and leader McClinton told her members on the House floor not to consider an amendment to add an ethics committee saying, “Now is not the time.”
White said, “This is absolutely the time. It is always the right time to seek justice for victims.” Otherwise, “a predator” is “free to harass other victims.”
Marcell said she was “shocked” by the decision of House Democrats to “cover for a member of their caucus who was credibly accused of sexual harassment.”
She mentioned news reports said the harasser’s identity is “an open secret within that caucus.”
“They had the ability to create protections and voted no,” she said. “And here we are two months into a session that should have started. And as the leader said, we have no operating rules. And no ethics committee.”
“Not only do I and other female house colleagues I’ve spoken to feel unsafe, but every woman who enters this building is now at risk for unwanted touching, advances, and comments from this individual,” said Marcell.
But Democrats shifted the blame to the Republicans.
House Democratic Caucus spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman said, “Following last week’s passage of bipartisan bills to provide justice to survivors of child sexual abuse, the House Democratic Caucus is focused on passing House Operating Rules. These rules will include a provision to ensure a clear process for all those whose business requires engaging with House members to report that they’ve been harassed or experienced discrimination. Republicans who controlled the House for 24 of the past 27 years had every opportunity to pass these protections and failed to do so.”