The state lawmakers asked an oversight committee with subpoena power to investigate.By Jon Delano

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Thousands have died in nursing homes across Pennsylvania, and some Republican lawmakers think they know why.

About half of the coronavirus deaths in Pennsylvania occurred in nursing homes, and some GOP lawmakers suggest it could be because the state compelled nursing homes to accept older citizens with COVID-19.

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On Monday, they asked an oversight committee with subpoena power to investigate.

“I will be referring the investigation of the Wolf administration’s handling of nursing homes, long-term care facilities and other senior facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic to the House Oversight Committee,” state House Majority Leader Rep. Kerry Benninghoff announced at a press conference in Harrisburg on Monday.

Benninghoff was not alone in the call to investigate.

“Pennsylvania – we rank third in nursing home deaths. We’ve lost almost 13,000 of our citizens in our nursing homes to COVID-19,” Pa. Rep. Natalie Mihalek, an Upper St. Clair Republican, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

Mihalek says under CDC guidance, nursing homes “could” accept coronavirus patients, but the state made that mandatory.

“Our guidance was more strict. It said that it ‘shall,’ and it was not just for re-admissions for persons already residing at the nursing home but hospitalized for COVID and then returned. But it also dealt with new admissions as well,” Mihalek said.

Only five states did that, said Mihalek.

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Pa. Rep. Rob Matzie, an Ambridge Democrat who called for an investigation of Brighton Rehab early on and recently lost his father to coronavirus in a nursing home, has no problem with a non-partisan investigation.

But he worries about politics.

“It’s easy for us playing Monday morning quarterback as policymakers to point fingers at the administration, whether it’s Democrat or Republican,” says Matzie.

Benninghoff insists this is not about politics.

Delano: Was this a political stunt?

Benninghoff: No, if it was going to be political, I would just find one of my own partisan committees and could have done it through the policy committee, which is partisan.

The Wolf administration calls the claims “baseless insinuations,” but last week Wolf said he would “welcome” anyone looking at what they did.

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“I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we’re always open to ways to improve,” Wolf said on Feb. 23.