PA House Leaders: Members Should Stop One-Upping Each Other With Outrage


HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — Leaders in the state House are attempting a bipartisan détente on a recent pattern of partisan outrage.

Since the legislative session started, Democrats and Republicans have taken turns slamming each other for perceived missteps from rank-and-file members.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody and Majority Leader Bryan Cutler urge their members to be more respectful of one another. Photo by Katie Meyer.

First, freshman Republican Stephanie Borowicz, of Clinton County, made waves for an invocation ahead of the swearing-in of the House’s first Muslim woman. Many construed her prayer as anti-Muslim.

Then, Chester County freshman Democrat Danielle Friel Otten compared pipeline workers to Nazis in a tweet. Then Borowicz took a selfie with members of group that has close ties to white supremacy, and that hit Twitter too.

Most recently, Philadelphia Democrat Brian Sims filmed himself confronting protesters outside a Planned Parenthood. In one video, he offered money to his social media followers if they could identify a group, three of whom appeared to be teenagers.

The incidents have all gotten traction nationally, and partisan groups–like the state GOP–have variously called for the lawmakers in question to apologize, resign, and be criminally investigated.

In a joint floor appearance Wednesday, House GOP Leader Brian Cutler and Democratic Leader Frank Dermody didn’t reference any of those incidents specifically. But Dermody called for civility, referencing a just-ended floor debate on a bill to outlaw abortions performed on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

“We saw some spirited debate today,” he said. “That’s the way it should be, but we need to respect, and we all should respect the views of all Pennsylvanians. And we need to respect each other.”

Cutler, in turn, told members that there is “no room for hate” in the chamber.

“The people of Pennsylvania expect better from us, and we’ve all promised to serve the people of our commonwealth to the best of our abilities,” he said.

The incidents this session have garnered national attention.

Friel Otten apologized for her tweet, and Sims said he’d stop engaging with abortion protesters, per Planned Parenthood policy.

Borowicz has stood by her statements and actions.