Accuracy in Media

In what amounts to a if you can’t beat them join them strategy, Republican Dennis O’Brien was elected the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania replacing fellow Republican John Perzel who has held that post since 2003.

Normally this might seem like just another intra-party fight for control, but in this case it is far more interesting since the Democrats took control of the House in November by a razor thin 102-101 margin.  In a scene somewhat reminiscent of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who squabbled over their number two pick, the Pennsylvania Dems couldn’t find enough unity within their own party to find a candidate for speaker that everyone would support.

The maneuver almost backfired on the Democrats who were looking for a more moderate candidate to oppose Perzel when 3 Democrats voted for the incumbent.  Luckily for them 6 Republicans voted for O’Brien giving him the Speaker’s post.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell who is a Democrat tried to put the best face on this rather embarrassing situation when he told that O’Brien is a fair, decent and honest human being and that “He put his own personal desires and wants aside in the name of helping the House of Representatives produce a better product.”  Talk about spin!

How exactly did O’Brien put aside personal desires by accepting the Democrats offer to become Speaker and replace a fellow Republican?  As a veteran legislator O’Brien saw his chance to grab the brass ring and in doing so helped the Democrats.  Even with the Democrats slim majority, they will still yield a great deal of power since they control the House committee chairmanships leaving O’Brien without the normal power afforded the Speaker.

If O’Brien had turned down the deal it likely would have led to more bickering and fighting within the Democratic Party and given the GOP a leg up.  Instead he handed them a free pass and for him a questionable future.

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