Pennsylvania Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
The Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate has set the stage for the first impeachment trial in nearly three decades, with lawmakers taking an oath to uphold the state Constitution during the proceedings before recessing until January.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat who easily won re-election last year, has until Dec. 21 to file an answer to the upper chamber — which voted 29-19 on Wednesday to approve a writ of summons formally notifying him of the charges — and appear for a trial beginning on Jan. 18.
The House impeachment managers presented the articles of impeachment, which accuse Krasner of misbehavior in office and obstructing a legislative investigation, to the Senate on Wednesday, the final day of the current session.
State Rep. Crag Williams, R-Delaware, said he and state Rep. Tim Bonner, R-Mercer, the Republican impeachment managers, “intend to handle this case as prosecutors, taking us where the evidence will go, mapping the evidence of the select committee, and otherwise onto the articles of impeachment.”
“It’s a solemn responsibility to present this case on behalf of the House of Representatives, and we are seeking a just resolution for Mr. Krasner and for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Bonner said.
Krasner — who has urged lawmakers to focus on a statewide review of gun violence and increased crime through a public process — told reporters in October that Republicans were using impeachment as a “political stunt.” He added that lawmakers have not proven that his policies have contributed to increased crime in Philadelphia.
“In the hundreds of years the commonwealth has existed, this is the only time the House has used the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas,” Krasner said after the House impeachment vote earlier this month.
A two-thirds majority vote — at least 34 lawmakers — in the Senate is required to remove Krasner from office, meaning that some Democrats in the 50-member chamber would have to support the measure for it to succeed after what’s expected to be a lengthy and costly trial.
Sen. Jimmy Dillon, D-Philadelphia, was the only member of his party to support the impeachment-related resolutions this week.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, argued on Tuesday that the Senate could not carry over impeachment proceedings from one session to the next two-year period, saying it would be “unconstitutional.” He also noted that voters elected a Democratic majority in the House during the Nov. 8 general election and said moving ahead with a trial would “undermine the voice of the people of this commonwealth.”
“The conclusion that the rules resolution survives the expiration of session sine die violates the Constitution and establishes a terrible precedent,” Costa said. “There is no impeachment exception to the Pennsylvania Constitution that pending matters carry over from one General Assembly to the next.”
Only two officials in Pennsylvania have faced removal from office through the impeachment process. The most recent occurred in 1994.
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