A divided state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to establish a select committee aimed at investigating and potentially impeaching Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
House Resolution 216, sponsored by state Rep. Josh Kail, passed by a vote of 114-86. The proposal would establish a Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order, with the intent of investigating Philadelphia’s growing gun violence and possibly recommending the impeachment of Krasner for what Republicans have called a “dereliction of duty.”
Kail, a Republican from Beaver County, said Pennsylvania is a “tough on crime” state but that its laws come down to enforcement.
“We have strong laws on the books that punish criminals for destroying our communities,” Kail said during the floor debate. “The bottom line is this, all the laws in the world don’t mean a thing if we don’t have district attorneys that are willing to enforce them.”
While votes on the GOP-led proposal were almost entirely along party lines, there were a handful of outliers, including four Democrats who joined Republicans in the affirmative.
Among those four Democrats were three from the City of Philadelphia: state Reps. Joe Hohenstein, Kevin Boyle and Ed Neilson. The lone Republican dissenter, state Rep. Mike Puskaric of Allegheny County, joined the majority of Democrats in voting against the measure.
Krasner and Philadelphia Democrats have criticized the Republican-controlled General Assembly for limiting the city’s ability to enact its own gun regulations.
When asked about his “no” vote, Puskaric didn’t downplay Philadelphia’s crime and gun violence issues but called the resolution “political theater.”
“I think it (sets) a horrendous precedent. And if it was turned around and the Democrats from Philly were coming out to the rural areas and trying to tell us how to do things out there, there would be an uprising,” Puskaric told City & State. “It's not to say that (Krasner’s) policies are working or things are going in the right direction. It's a mess. But the reality is, the people of Philadelphia have elected him and they seem to want to at least try his policies.”
Prior to voting in favor of final passage, Hohenstein, who represents parts of Northeast Philadelphia, proposed an amendment to the resolution to apply it to all 67 counties in the state rather than just Philadelphia.
“We know we have a problem in Philadelphia. We get it. But this is a problem that’s happening all across the state, as well,” Hohenstein said. “But if you’re going to make all of us deal with it, make all of us deal with it.”
Hohenstein’s amendment ultimately failed and the resolution passed as written. On the resolution itself, Hohenstein said his “yes” vote came down to accountability.
“As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in which the legislation was first considered, I voted against it because I believe strongly that we should look at the work of district attorneys and their offices across the entire state of Pennsylvania. There are counties in Pennsylvania with higher or similar crime statistics to Philadelphia and DAs in other counties who have committed or are under investigation for grievous crimes like rape,” Hohenstein said in a statement. “My final ‘yes’ vote when it came to the House floor for consideration is a recognition that the Philadelphia district attorney does need to be accountable, and it is worth examining problems in the system.”