Wed, Nov 16, 2022 2:14 PM
By Anthony Hennen, The Center Square
After accusations, public hearings, and a committee investigation, the Republican-majority Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 107-85 in favor of impeachment proceedings against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
A 14-8 party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday favoring House Resolution 240 forwarded the articles of impeachment to the full House.
“We are finally going to be holding Larry Krasner accountable for his actions,” Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, said after the committee vote Tuesday.
Krasner’s critics focused on public safety as why they support impeachment.
“At the end of the day, crime is not a partisan issue. Fixing it should not be partisan, either,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte. “But you got a DA who’s choosing not to protect the people who put him in office, so somebody’s gotta step up.”
During the House floor debate on Wednesday, Republicans emphasized their concerns about lawlessness and misbehavior in office that isn’t necessarily criminal conduct. While they did not argue Krasner took any illegal action, they point to authority to impeach based on “any misbehavior.”
That misbehavior included, White argued, intentionally misleading judges, neglecting the duty of the district attorney’s office, and unprofessional conduct.
“The Philadelphia district attorney has unilaterally decided not to enforce the laws as written,” said Rep. Tim Bonner, R-Grove City. “The power of discretion is not absolute.”
“These changes have endangered the health, welfare, and safety of 1.5 million Pennsylvanians who live in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Torren Ecker, R-Abbottstown.
The resolution comes after months of an investigation into the Philadelphia district attorney’s office which Krasner called “anti-democratic.” The House found him in contempt and focused their public hearings on a “dramatic” increase in gun violence cases that went unprosecuted.
“They are making a last minute, lame-duck session desperate move to impeach another duly elected public official,” said Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia. “The House has rarely ever voted to impeach a public official.”
Hohenstein argued there was “no justification” for impeachment and Republicans were acting in haste.
“We’ve been delivered an incomplete interim report, leaving us to beg the question: Where’s the beef?” Hohenstein said.
“It is sad that in a lame duck session we are using the extraordinary power we have with such disregard,” said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia. “Why aren’t we using that power (of the House) to fix what is broken?”
Democrats focused their opposition on the lack of action from the General Assembly to pass gun-control laws.
“The truth of the matter is that our district attorney is not the only one responsible,” said Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia. “This chamber is also responsible. Until we’re willing to make the change here and do what is necessary, we don’t have the right, the privilege, or the honor to utter the names of those who lost their lives in my city. It is a disgrace to use those lives for political points without doing the necessary work to change the circumstance by which my community must live.”
The Pennsylvania General Assembly has rarely impeached elected officials. The last successful impeachment happened in 1994 against then-Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen.
Krasner has passionately defended his approach to criminal justice and criticized the impeachment proceedings against him as politically motivated.
“I hope that one day we can have a real conversation about the prosecution of crime and public safety,” Krasner said in an open letter to Republicans in October. “We have much work to do. But we can only do it when you are not seeking political points right before an election.”
With the House vote, the Senate will hold a trial on whether to convict Krasner in the next session. To convict the district attorney, the Senate requires a two-thirds vote in favor. If the Senate votes in favor after a trial, Krasner would be removed from office and disqualified from holding public office in the commonwealth in the future.