Joanna McClinton Replaces Mark Rozzi as Pennsylvania House Speaker After He Steps Down

Pennsylvania State Representative Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) on Tuesday was sworn in as State House Speaker, replacing State Representative Mark Rozzi (D-Temple) in that role shortly after he stepped down from it. 

Rozzi’s two months at the helm of the House of Representatives have been fraught with contention. Immediate past speaker and House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Quarryville), who corralled support within his caucus for Rozzi when his party enjoyed a momentary slim majority, recalled that the Berks County Democrat promised to drop his Democratic affiliation. Rozzi never did so and clashed with the House GOP on procedural and organizational issues. 

Judging by her voting record, McClinton’s speakership could move the administration of the House in an even more leftist direction. Nonetheless, Cutler made clear Tuesday he won’t miss Rozzi’s speakership. 

“As former speaker of the House and the twice-elected leader of the House Republican Caucus, I know that trust is the basis of a successful legislative leader and provides the ability to move our chamber forward,” Cutler said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite the attempt to find a unique solution for an evenly-divided House, Representative Rozzi openly broke that trust essentially from the moment he was elected.”

Rozzi’s successor, the first woman and second black person to serve as House speaker gave an oration from the head of the chamber expressing optimism that the General Assembly can proceed with the bipartisanship necessary to send legislation to Governor Josh Shapiro’s (D) desk. While Republicans enjoy a comfortable majority in the Senate, McClinton’s party outnumbers the GOP by two votes in the 203-member House. 

“I’m confident if we collaborate rather than criticize, debate rather than disparage and replace shortsighted political gain with sincere cooperation, this body can do better and will do better,” McClinton said. “Today can be our fresh start. Each of us is here because our neighbors have placed their trust in us. And that collective trust is what empowers us to act in the interest of our communities and to advance Pennsylvania for the common good.”

McClinton is a pastor and attorney who formerly served as chief counsel to State Senator Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia). Observers largely expected her to become speaker after her party won a majority of House seats last fall insofar as the Philadelphia-area lawmaker served as party leader in the chamber. She was elected to the speakership on Tuesday over State Representative Carl Metzgar (R-Somerset) in a party-line vote. 

Rozzi meanwhile said that while his speakership was not viewed as ideal by either party caucus, he is happy to have overseen House passage of legislation to allow adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged predators despite the statute of limitations. Rozzi, who himself survived rape by a Catholic priest when he was thirteen, has long championed such a change. He also backed a new set of House rules helping the minority party play a greater role in setting the House agenda. 

“Reform has been at the forefront of discussion in Harrisburg,” he said in his final remarks to colleagues as their speaker. “While I’ve been able to do things differently and I undoubtedly upset people on both sides of the aisle, I think that was not only needed but was a sign that I was doing something right.” 

McClinton commented on Rozzi’s rules package in a way seeming to suggest she would back its implementation. 

“The majority will no longer silence the minority party,” she said after becoming speaker.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Joanna McClinton” by Rep. Joanna McClinton. Photo “Mark Rozzi” by Rep. Mark Rozzi. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Farragutful. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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