HARRISBURG — The hearing that state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the outspoken conservative Republican from Cranberry, convened Tuesday on his resolution to impeach Attorney General Kathleen Kane held the potential for political spectacle.
The proceeding didn’t disappoint: Just 10 minutes in, Mr. Metcalfe ordered House security to remove a Democratic legislator whom he declared was speaking in defiance of procedural rules, and seconds later, the entire Democratic contingent walked out.
“Have your kangaroo court, pal,” said Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Philadelphia, whom the security staff had approached after he refused to yield to Mr. Metcalfe during the meeting of the House State Government Committee.
Mr. Metcalfe, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, told fellow legislators in a memo in October that Ms. Kane, a Democrat, had created a “constitutional crisis” when she declined to defend the state law limiting marriage in Pennsylvania to a man and a woman. He said he would introduce a resolution containing articles of impeachment.
On Tuesday, he followed through with a hearing on a set of articles, contained in an amendment he proposes using to replace a resolution originally drafted by Democrats in praise of Ms. Kane.
Minutes into the meeting, Rep. Mark Cohen of Philadelphia, the committee’s ranking Democrat, objected and moved that the committee adjourn, but the vote failed 11-10.
A back-and-forth ensued between Mr. O’Brien, who tried to speak, and Mr. Metcalfe, who said Mr. O’Brien was not in order and who then ordered security to remove him. As the security staff approached, the 10 Democrats stood — with a call of “let’s go, gang” — and left the room.
Later, after several critics of Ms. Kane had testified in front of the Republicans left in the room, Mr. Metcalfe said the Democratic walkout was a “clear dereliction of duty.”
“We could have had an exchange of ideas today,” he said, adding that he wondered how Democrats would defend their resolution commending Ms. Kane. “They clearly are not able to defend her, so instead chose to run.”
The articles of impeachment sponsored by Mr. Metcalfe claim the attorney general failed to uphold the duties of her office when she opted in July 2013 against fighting a challenge to the marriage ban, saying she believed the law to be unconstitutional, and when she decided to not bring charges against Democratic state representatives who the Philadelphia Inquirer reported accepted money from an undercover operative.
After the Inquirer report, in March, Ms. Kane said flaws in the investigation, which began before she took office, crippled any chance of a prosecution.
Told Monday of the hearing, Ms. Kane said, “I’m sorry about that,” with a short laugh.
“We think it’s a waste of the taxpayers’ time and money,” she said. “He ought to be doing real work and not barking up a tree he knows nothing about.”
Asked if he sees the resolution being called to a vote of the full House, Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said: “I don’t see that as a priority, that’s for sure.”
Impeachments by the House of Representatives are tried by the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict.
In 1994, state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen was removed from office after being impeached by the House and found guilty by the Senate on one of seven counts. Larsen had been convicted on a drug conspiracy charge related to prescription medications.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-717-787-2141 or on Twitter @karen_langley. First Published May 6, 2014 10:55 AM