Pennsylvania Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
The Pennsylvania Senate returns to Harrisburg this week, officially beginning its constitutional role in the impeachment process against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who faces a trial that could end with removal from office.
Republicans in the state House of Representatives launched an investigation into Krasner, a Democrat who won reelection last year, months ago, citing failed criminal policies and rising crime rates in the state’s largest city. Earlier this month, lawmakers in the lower chamber voted 107-85 to impeach him and named three representatives — two Republicans and one Democrat — to serve as managers in the impeachment trial, which should begin in January.
But first, the upper chamber must set the rules of impeachment, take an oath to uphold the state Constitution, and notify Krasner of charges after the House formally delivers the articles of impeachment to the Senate before the current legislative session ends on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Senate will consider action on two resolutions setting the rules of impeachment and invite the lower chamber to formally present the articles — which accuse Krasner of misbehavior in office and obstructing a legislative investigation — to the Senate on Wednesday.
Once the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate, lawmakers will take an oath to uphold the impeachment process as outlined in the state’s governing document. Finally, the upper chamber will consider a resolution notifying Krasner, who has accused lawmakers backing the impeachment of using the process “because they do not like their ideas,” of the charges and directing an answer by Dec. 21.
The Senate will then recess until January 2023, and the trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18, Erica Clayton Wright, a Senate Republicans spokesperson, said.
Removal from office requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, so some Democrats would have to support the measure as the 50-seat chamber becomes a 28-22 majority in January.
The House Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, which was formed in June to investigate and review rising crime rates in the state’s largest city, has focused on Krasner’s approach to prosecuting crime in Philadelphia. In September, the GOP-controlled panel conducted a series of public hearings with live testimony on gun violence.
Earlier this year, the House voted 162-38 to hold Krasner in contempt for refusing to respond to a subpoena issued by the GOP-controlled committee.
Krasner agreed to testify before the committee. But there were conditions from the panel, including that the meeting would take place behind closed doors without a public live stream or audio recordings. While the committee would have a copy of the testimony, Krasner said he could not make a copy.
After the impeachment vote in the House, Krasner accused lawmakers backing the process of using “the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas.” He has also argued that lawmakers are trying to “erase” Philadelphia voters through the impeachment process.
“They have impeached me without presenting a single shred of evidence connecting our policies to an uptick in crime. We were never given the opportunity to defend our ideas and policies — policies I would have been proud to explain,” Krasner said. “That Pennsylvania Republicans willfully avoided hearing the facts about my office is shameful.”
Impeachment is a rare and lengthy process in Pennsylvania. The most recent occurred in 1994, with the House voting to impeach and the Senate convicting Rolf Larsen, a former Supreme Court justice, for improperly discussing court matters.
Former state Rep. Frank Dermody, who chaired the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on courts during the Larsen impeachment, said in 2016 that the 1994 process cost about $1.5 million. Today, that would amount to roughly $3 million when adjusted for inflation using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
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