Wolf will officially veto GOP effort to end coronavirus emergency

The state supreme court sided with Wolf in a ruling last week.

  • Benjamin Pontz

Gov. Tom Wolf will veto a concurrent resolution to terminate the disaster declaration he has used to manage the commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, his spokesperson said Wednesday evening.

The decision caps a month-long legal struggle between the Republican-controlled legislature, whose leaders argued the resolution did not need to be presented to the governor, and Wolf, who has maintained that he has the prerogative to disapprove — effectively veto — any resolutions presented to him by the General Assembly.

The state supreme court sided with Wolf in a ruling last week, which left Republicans with no choice but to present House Resolution 836 to the governor.

Wolf’s spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, confirmed in an email Wednesday evening that he will reject it.

It would take a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the state legislature to override the governor’s disapproval. While some Democrats did break ranks to support the measure, the number falls well short of a veto-proof majority.

Republicans hold a 109-93 majority in the House and a 28-21 majority (with one independent who caucuses with the GOP) in the Senate.

Republican leaders said that presenting the resolution to the governor was “by no means the end of our efforts,” but with the state Supreme Court ruling that it would take a two-thirds majority to suspend the governor’s emergency powers, they face a diminished set of options.

They are working to pass a state constitutional amendment that would limit the governor’s authority to declare an emergency to 30 days without legislative approval, but the earliest that could take effect is late 2021. That amendment passed a procedural hurdle on Tuesday, passing along party lines out of the House State Government Committee. It has not yet been considered on the House floor.

Some House Republicans have also introduced articles of impeachment, but their effort lacks broad support.

The political fight comes against the backdrop of an uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases. The Department of Health reported 849 new positive cases on Wednesday, and the seven-day average has increased from 584 to 700 in the last week. Rising case numbers in southwestern Pennsylvania could prompt a return to some level of lockdown, most likely limiting restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery only.

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