The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of House Resolution 240 Tuesday morning, sending two articles of impeachment against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner to the full chamber for consideration.
In the latest step in the investigation of Krasner, legislators voted along party lines, with Republicans approving the resolution in hopes of a bipartisan vote on the House floor Wednesday. The move comes just weeks after the select committee tasked with investigating crime in the city during Krasner’s tenure issued a preliminary report that stopped short of recommending impeachment.
State Rep. Martina White, the prime sponsor of the resolution and the lone Philadelphia Republican in Harrisburg, rehashed some of the emotional testimony crime victims shared in the report, arguing that Krasner needs to be held accountable for what GOP lawmakers have often called a “dereliction of duty.”
“Tomorrow, I believe this will be bipartisan because the people of Philadelphia deserve better than what they receive out of the district attorney’s office,” White said at a press conference following the committee vote. “He’s supposed to serve and protect by prosecuting criminals and making sure that they’re convicted guilty should the evidence be there.”
GOP lawmakers have pointed toward rising crime and gun violence rates in the city as evidence of Krasner’s failure to protect and serve. Democrats, alongside Krasner’s office, have called the process politically motivated and an effort to overturn a duly elected official. Krasner, while challenging the select committee’s validity in Commonwealth Court, was held in contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas and requests for information.
Democrats who voted to hold Krasner in contempt say they respect the rule of law, which led them to a ‘no’ vote on the resolution in committee Tuesday.
“Today’s resolution, as I see it, is a weaponization of our state Constitution for partisan political purposes,” state Rep. Mike Zabel, a Democrat from Delaware County, said during the committee meeting. “Impeachment of a local official because a legislative majority doesn't like that official’s policies … that should terrify us.”
Critics of the impeachment process have argued that Philadelphia voters chose Krasner to represent them and that lawmakers in Harrisburg should work to solve the city’s issues instead of overreaching into voting matters.
“The election last week was a clear rejection of the type of fear-mongering and tough-on-crime rhetoric that those leading the impeachment effort continue to sell. The people aren’t buying it,” Elizabeth Randol, legislative director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “This impeachment effort is anti-democratic on its own, but when you consider that those leading this effort rushed to hold a vote even as the balance of power remains undecided in the state House is remarkably cynical.”
The two articles of impeachment are scheduled to be voted on the House floor tomorrow. The first alleges that under Krasner’s administration, his lack of leadership is a cause of the violence in the city, and the second alleges Krasner obstructed the select committee’s investigation.
If approved by the House, HR 420 would go to the Senate for a trial, where a two-thirds vote would be needed to impeach Krasner.