One day after a federal judge declared Pennsylvania's coronavirus-related lockdown orders "unconstitutional," Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf responded by promising to appeal the ruling and accusing the state's Republican-majority legislature of "fear-mongering."
Wolf, who was speaking at an event highlighting Pennsylvania's new mail-in balloting procedures, started off by responding to the ruling by Judge William Stickman IV. Stickman was appointed to his post by President Trump.
“There’s no sense debating a ruling that will be appealed," he said. "Two of three federal judges [have] upheld what we did... But what’s not up for debate is that our early and decisive action saved lives."
Wolf accused the federal government of "dither[ing]" during the coronavirus pandemic, contrasting the White House response with that of himself and Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health Rachel Levine.
"Our hospitals were never overwhelmed and research tells us thousands of lives were saved," he said.
Wolf claimed a majority of Pennsylvanians have refused to "buy into conspiracy theories or fear-mongering" from Trump or the state's Republican-controlled legislature.
"[Most Pennsylvanians] wear masks. They keep distance," he said. "They are smart about how they interact with others. They are responsible."
Wolf also singled out the president, saying that he "could do nothing but stare at his cellphone and share messages of hate, division and disinformation."
After Stickman's ruling, Trump had retweeted a slew of news stories and positive reactions about it. Last week, during a rally in Westmoreland County, he had demanded Wolf "reopen" the state.
The governor called on state Republicans to "get serious about recovery" and not celebrate a court ruling "while refusing to help anyone but themselves."
Since Wolf declared a state emergency in March, Republicans and a small number of Democrats in the legislature have tried to cancel the emergency – often citing businesses being financially forced to close because of newly-imposed regulations, and allegations that Wolf's administration doesn't work closely enough with their coequal branch of state government.
“[C]ontrary to the misinformation from the legislature, we are reopened," Wolf continued. "And we’ve been able to manage outbreaks and mitigate risk successfully while trying to bring some normalcy to our lives."
After proceeding incrementally through traffic-light-themed limitations of red, yellow and green from late May through July, the administration recently imposed new restrictions on restaurants and bars that prohibit service at the physical bar and require patrons to order a meal if they plan to consume alcohol. Event capacity restrictions are also still in effect across the commonwealth.
Stickman's ruling had been celebrated by many in the state legislature's GOP majority, with State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Gettysburg Republican, writing on social media that the governor's "abuse of power to do this has been condemned by the federal judge as a violation of your freedoms – Choose to walk as free people."
Over the weekend, Mastriano headlined a "Freedom Rally" on the Capitol steps in Harrisburg, in which speakers called on Wolf to fully reopen Pennsylvania's economy and condemned the restrictions as systematically damaging to the commonwealth.
Another speaker at that protest was State Rep. Russ Diamond, a Lebanon Republican who authored legislation to "terminate" Wolf's executive emergency order. The governor recently vetoed the bill, and the legislature failed to override but state Republicans promised to run the veto override again at a later date.
"I introduced this bill [to terminate Wolf's order] on March 17, the day after he shut down restaurants, because I thought, 'well just in case it gets bad' – I never knew it would get this bad. So we put it up for a veto override, and of course, our friends on the other side [of the aisle] said 'no, we want to stick with Tom,'" Diamond explained in remarks Saturday.
Diamond also railed against Levine's order that people wear masks in certain situations such as inside schools and businesses.
Later Tuesday, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Centre County Republican, slammed Wolf for attacking his caucus during his remarks earlier in the day in York.
"I would be remiss not to stand up for my members," Benninghoff said.
"For the governor to try to spin it and spin away from issues that maybe he doesn't want to address is inappropriate -- and to be attacking my members, I think, is wrong."
Benninghoff added that House Republicans' doors are always open, remarking that Wolf "knows there are telephones and other ways to communicate" if he is concerned they are not working together sufficiently.
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly contributed to this report.