By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square
(The Center Square) – The halls of Harrisburg are haunted by missed opportunities this week as the hope for bipartisan pragmatism has curdled.
After the House of Representatives elected Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Temple as speaker to serve as an independent leader in the narrowly divided chamber, media outlets touted Pennsylvania as a model for the comparably contentious Congress.
“I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth,” Rozzi said in his acceptance speech, shunning loyalty to political interests.
However, within a week, those hopes have been dashed. As Rozzi dragged his feet on switching from Democrat to Independent, as he said he would do, Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Hollidaysburg, the Republican who nominated him, walked back his support and asked Rozzi to “immediately resign,” The Center Square previously reported.
It’s just the latest controversy plaguing Rozzi as he navigates the House’s rocky start to the new legislative session.
A special session called to move forward a reform bill for victims of child sexual assault has made little progress, bogged down by delays and disagreements between Democrats and Republicans. Rozzi canceled legislative sessions for the rest of the week and wants to create a working group to find a compromise.
The slow pace, and the surprise turn by Rozzi, has added to the tension.
“I’m a little bit raw,” Gregory said, placing the blame for breaking trust on Rozzi. “One person has not lived up to his promise and that promise he made was to be speaker, and he has now told me he is not going to switch parties … I want to remind you of that because it’s important. I’m kind of upset about it. I’m the guy who nominated him, I’m the Republican that nominated him with the trust.”
A spokesperson for the House Democrats could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
“I came here to get things done for the victims of child sexual abuse while the speaker and the other folks on the other side of the aisle, they went home, and we were all here…we don’t want to go home,” Gregory said.
In the future, Gregory expects gridlock.
“I would suspect that our caucus is now not going to be able to trust him, we’re going to find a hard time working with him … he’s got a lot of work to do to try and build trust with a lot of people, including his own party,” he said. “And I don’t know how he’s going to function in that position.”
With three special elections in February, the House is expected to have a slim Democratic majority of 102-101. But that thin margin may prove troublesome as Republicans expected something different from Rozzi when they supported him as speaker.
“I can’t speak to how everyone reacts to being betrayed,” Gregory said.