Jock­ey­ing be­gins as House open­ings fuel lead­er­ship shuf­fle

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Mark Scolforo

HAR­RIS­BURG » Changes are com­ing to the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, due in large part to the pend­ing de­par­ture of one of the most pow­er­ful elected of­fi­cials in Har­ris­burg.

The de­ci­sion by House Repub­li­can Leader Dave Reed to not seek re-elec­tion af­ter a brief flir­ta­tion with run­ning for Congress sets the stage for a fight over lead­er­ship later this year.

“The day that a leader an­nounces that they’re not go­ing to be the leader any­more, a cer­tain amount of ‘Game of Thrones’ be­gins,” said rank-and-file Rep. Jesse Top­per, R-Bed­ford.

Reed nar­rowly won the top job four years ago. Not among the House Repub­li­cans’ more con­ser­va­tive mem­bers, Reed presided over the cau­cus as it con­tin­ued a years­long right­ward drift. Now the ques­tion is: who comes next?

“Might we get a lit­tle more con­ser­va­tive?” said Rep. Rob Kauff­man, RFranklin. “Dave’s cer­tainly been a mod­er­at­ing force. Yes, it’s likely with Dave’s de­part­ing that the ma­jor­ity may get more con­ser­va­tive.”

The cham­ber’s pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer, Speaker Mike Turzai, gen­er­ally has aligned with the con­ser­va­tives, and he is ex­pected to seek another term in the top job. Nei­ther Reed nor Turzai would com­ment for this story.

“I can’t say they’ve agreed 100 per­cent on ev­ery­thing, but my wife doesn’t agree with me on 100 per­cent of ev­ery­thing,” Top­per said.

Rep. Tina Pick­ett, RBrad­ford, who chairs the House In­sur­ance Com­mit­tee, said her cau­cus’ elec­toral suc­cess — Repub­li­cans hold a 121-82 edge over the Democrats — makes some divi­sion in­evitable.

“We have a pretty heavy ma­jor­ity right now, and what that does, seem­ingly, to me, is it gives a lit­tle more en­ergy to fac­tions that want to push their own agenda within the cau­cus,” Pick­ett said, mak­ing it a chal­lenge for Reed to keep people to­gether.

In­ter­nal di­vi­sions among House Repub­li­cans did not gen­er­ally spill over onto the floor, said Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lan­caster.

“We would hear about tur­moil over there, but it was pretty clear, I be­lieve, to their mem­bers that once a ma­jor­ity of their mem­bers de­cided what di­rec­tion they wanted to go — and some­times Dave Reed was try­ing to go in one di­rec­tion and Mike Turzai was try­ing to lead in another — but once those tal­lies were taken in their own cau­cus, ma­jor­ity ruled,” Sturla said.

Even though lead­er­ship bat­tles don’t hap­pen un­til af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion, the jock­ey­ing has be­gun.

“I am cer­tainly in­ter­ested” in Reed’s po­si­tion, said Ma­jor­ity Whip Bryan Cut­ler, R-Lan­caster. “But ul­ti­mately, that’s up to the cau­cus.”

Another high-rank­ing leader, Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Chair­man Stan Say­lor, R-York, said he has “made no moves to­ward that job” and has told in­ter­ested par­ties he is de­ter­mined to fo­cus on the state bud­get that’s due June 30. The vot­ing is in se­cret, but Say­lor said Reed beat him by a sin­gle vote four years ago.

Rep. Kerry Ben­ninghoff, R-Cen­tre, cur­rently head of the House Repub­li­cans’ pol­icy de­vel­op­ment group, also de­flected ques­tions, pre­fer­ring to talk about the spring agenda and bud­get sea­son ahead.

“My own el­e­va­tion is not my pri­or­ity right now,” Ben­ninghoff said.

Reed is hardly the only high-rank­ing mem­ber to be de­part­ing Har­ris­burg at the end of the year. The House Democrats’ sec­on­drank­ing mem­ber, Mi­nor­ity Whip Mike Hanna, is also re­tir­ing, along with sev­eral long-serv­ing Repub­li­can com­mit­tee chair­men and the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, Rep. Joe Markosek.

There are also an un­usual num­ber of chair­man­ships open­ing in the House, as pre­sid­ing Repub­li­cans are re­tir­ing af­ter head­ing up the Ju­di­ciary, Trans­porta­tion, Liquor, Chil­dren and Youth, Con­sumer Af­fairs, En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­sources and En­ergy and Li­cen­sure com­mit­tees.

In the Se­nate, where Repub­li­cans also hold a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity, re­tire­ments are open­ing up at the head of the Ju­di­ciary, Ed­u­ca­tion, Law and Jus­tice and Local Gov­ern­ment com­mit­tees.

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