House votes to make Republican Rep. Cutler its next speaker

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania House turned to a seven-term Republican member Monday to become its next speaker, elevating him to the chamber’s top job a week after his predecessor stepped down in mid-term.

The vote for Rep. Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County made him the House’s presiding officer, one step up from the job of majority leader, a post he held for nearly two years.

After he was sworn in, Cutler spoke of the state’s founder, William Penn, as well as the challenges the state currently faces.

“I’m not giving up,” Cutler said. “And I believe every member of our body is here to accomplish more on behalf of the people who have sent us here.”

Democrats nominated Rep. Frank Dermody of Allegheny County, but before the vote total was announced, Dermody asked that Cutler’s selection as speaker be considered unanimous. The roll call that was recorded had the vote at 110-91, with two Democrats voting for Cutler.

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, was promoted from Republican whip to majority leader, and Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, was elected to the vote-counting job of whip.

Cutler was formally nominated by Rep. David Hickernell, R-Lancaster, who praised him for seeking common ground.

“I believe he will be one of those great speakers who will be remembered and who future speakers will try to emulate,” Hickernell said.

Cutler’s new position opened up a vacancy near the top of House Republicans’ pecking order, and the GOP representatives were expected to pick a new floor leader and likely make other leadership changes during a closed-door caucus meeting.

It was unusual for the House to reshuffle leadership with six months left in the two-year legislative session, but the change was made necessary by Allegheny County Republican Rep. Mike Turzai’s departure.

Cutler, 45, has moved steadily up the ranks since being elected to the Legislature nearly 14 years ago. He served as Republican whip before becoming floor leader.

A former X-ray technician and hospital worker, Cutler is also a lawyer. Married and the father of three, he lives on a farm in a rural district in southern Lancaster County.

Turzai announced last week he had been hired as general counsel for the Pittsburgh-based natural gas division of a utility company.

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