The Lead

Pa. Rep. Metcalfe calls for Wolf’s impeachment over COVID-19 response

By: - May 15, 2020 11:29 am

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, the most powerful House lawmaker on environmental matters, speaks at a DEP rule making board meeting.

(Updated at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, 5/15/20 to include comment from Gov. Tom Wolf)

An arch-conservative Pennsylvania Republican lawmaker is calling for Gov. Tom Wolf’s impeachment.

In a Friday memo to his colleagues, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said that Wolf “has violated so many of our fundamental rights as citizens of the Commonwealth” in his COVID-19 response.

Metcalfe said Wolf’s stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns constituted a “taking of property from business owners without just compensation.” 

The veteran lawmaker added that Wolf has failed to “adequately administer our unemployment compensation system” and to protect nursing home residents.

Metcalfe also pointed to an “utter lack of transparency” in the pandemic response.

“While these are certainly challenging times, Gov. Wolf must be held accountable for his actions that have harmed so many of our citizens and violated so many of our rights,” Metcalfe wrote.

At mid-afternoon news briefing, Wolf, responding to a journalist’s submitted question about Metcalfe’s proposal said, “I’m no lawyer, but I can’t wait to see the legal arguments that might be put forward in that case.”

Impeachment would require a majority vote in the state House, while removal would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

A Wolf spokesperson declined to comment.

House Democratic spokesperson Bill Patton said the caucus “will give that resolution all the attention that it deserves” before hanging up.

Wolf’s response to COVID-19 has wide approval, according to multiple polls. A Washington Post poll released Monday found that 72 percent of Pennsylvanians — including nine in ten Democrats and half of Republicans — back Wolf.

Both the state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court have agreed that Wolf is within his police powers as governor in ordering businesses to close and people stay inside to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The last statewide elected official to be impeached was state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, in 1994. The Senate later voted to convict.

The move — and rhetoric — is not unusual for the oft-headline leading Metcalfe. Just this week, he called for Pennsylvania’s district attorneys to not enforce Wolf’s public health orders, which he called “unconstitutional dictates.”

Metcalfe is also known for inviting white nationalists and climate change skeptics to testify in committee hearings, blocking Pennsylvania’s first openly gay lawmaker from making a speech celebrating same-sex marriage equality in 2013, and hardball legislative tactics to block Democratic proposals from passing.

This isn’t Metcalfe’s first dive into impeachment. In 2014, Metcalfe led a push to impeach former Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane for not enforcing the state’s same-sex marriage law.

Kane would later resign in scandal, but the House still declined to impeach her.

Last year, Metcalfe introduced yet another impeachment resolution for Democratic Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto after the city passed a number of gun control laws that violated state statute.

That measure went nowhere.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.