PA Gov Blasts ‘Undemocratic’ GOP Impeachment Bid Over Gerrymandering

Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa. Wolf kicked off a statewide "Schools that Teach Tour" and outlined a forthcoming proposal to the Le... Gov. Tom Wolf Caln speaks during a news conference at Elementary School Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Thorndale, Pa. Wolf kicked off a statewide "Schools that Teach Tour" and outlined a forthcoming proposal to the Legislature to increase taxes on Pennsylvania's natural gas industry to help boost aid to public schools. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) MORE LESS
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday blasted Republican lawmakers for pushing to impeach state Supreme Court justices who ruled that the Keystone State’s congressional districts were unfairly gerrymandered on partisan lines.

“This is an unprecedented and undemocratic attempt to retaliate against the judicial branch,” Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement. “The legislature should be helping people, not settling personal grudges. This is nonsense and a waste of precious time and resources.”

Twelve Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers on Tuesday filed legislation to remove four of the five Democratic justices on the court — David Wecht, Christine Donahue, Kevin Dougherty and Debra McCloskey Todd — for “misbehavior in office.”

The court in January voted 5-2 on party lines to strike down congressional maps drawn in 2011, determining that they were so gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor that they violated the state constitution and needed to be replaced before the May primary. The map has typically given Republicans 13 out of 18 congressional seats, even as they have won around 50 percent of the statewide vote.

After lawmakers failed to meet a court-imposed deadline to negotiate new maps with the governor’s office, the court ordered that its own map, drawn by an outside expert, be used.

That decision inspired a federal lawsuit from Pennsylvania Republicans, who also made two unsuccessful appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the court-drawn map.

It also prompted Rep. Cris Dush (R) to kick off the impeachment charge, rallying other GOP lawmakers to back his legislation calling for the justices’ ouster. Backers of the measure say the court overstepped its judicial authority by imposing new district lines. Justice Max Baer, the court’s fifth Democrat, escaped an impeachment resolution because he said the current map could stay in place until 2020.

It’s unclear how much support the impeachment push has in the GOP-controlled legislature.

“I have not heard much from leadership on the matter nor all that much from my colleagues,” Rep. John McGinnis, one of the Republican co-sponsors, told TPM in an email.

The public response has been similarly mixed, according to McGinnis: “Reactions I received from the public split between those grateful for my action and those accusing me of being a fascist.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R) and House Speaker Michael Turzai (R), who led the federal lawsuit against the new maps, did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment on the impeachment resolutions.

A spokesperson for Turzai told the Huffington Post on Tuesday that leadership still needed to survey members about the resolutions and review evidence, and that the decision would not be “taken lightly.”

Removing justices would require a two-thirds vote in the state Senate, where Republicans control 34 of the 50 seats.

As controversial as this proposal may seem, Pennsylvania Republicans on Capitol Hill have said it deserves consideration. Rep. Ryan Costello called the new map a form of “judicial activism” worthy of impeachment. And Sen. Pat Toomey said impeachment was a “conversation that needs to happen.”

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Notable Replies

  1. Am I missing something or didn’t SCOTUS already rule on this?

    GOPissing in the wind.

  2. They lost the underlying decision, but they are trying to punish the PA Supreme Court for doing the right thing. Being the white supremacist asshole party we are lucky Republicans haven’t sent out the boys in gray to arrest them damn Judges.

  3. The map has typically given Republicans 13 out of 18 congressional seats, even as they have won around 50 percent of the statewide vote.

    There’s nothing partisan about wanting the composition of the legislature to reflect election vote counts. That’s all that needs to be said to realize which side in this debate is being partisan.

  4. SCOTUS just said that it’s not their place to adjudicate a state constitution issue. Impeachment by the state senate is also an internal state issue, so it’s not technically addressed by they SCOTUS either. We can read between the lines and see it’s just the GOP throwing a tantrum, but the SCOTUS didn’t directly rule on this issue.

  5. Avatar for edys edys says:

    Well, I’ll give them this, impeachment DOES need to be considered.

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