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GOP delays impeachment vote of Kane

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Republican House leaders don't intend to move forward soon with an impeachment vote on Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a topic aired at a committee hearing that one GOP lawmaker said resembled “an echo chamber.”

The hearing before the House State Government Committee on a resolution by Chairman Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, to impeach Kane presented only testimony against her on Tuesday. Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland County, said he wants to hear “both sides” — and from Kane herself, whom Metcalfe didn't invite to testify.

“In all honesty, I considered it as an echo chamber. It's unfortunate,” Dunbar said.

He said he wished Democratic members didn't walk out of the meeting, because that prevented a full discussion.

Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County, who is a House GOP leader, predicted “no scenario in which the House takes up any action until all the investigations are completed.”

They include a House ethics committee investigation of four Philadelphia Democratic members whom Kane declined to prosecute and a potential criminal investigation of those lawmakers by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.

Kane, the first woman and Democrat to be elected attorney general, gave Williams the case, saying she considered it legally flawed.

Vereb didn't say a House vote would happen, only that no decision would be made until other cases are resolved.

Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Republican leaders, said they are occupied with the budget, pension reform and liquor-privatization proposals.

Kane went on the defensive after news stories disclosed that she shut down a legislative sting begun by her predecessors, in which an undercover informant videotaped lawmakers and an former traffic-court judge taking money and jewelry.

The impeachment hearing, though, may help Kane deflect criticism by portraying Metcalfe's effort as partisan, analysts said.

“Right now the discussion is about her execution of the job of attorney general,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University. “Impeachment proceedings would allow Kane to reframe the argument in terms of partisan character assassination. Rep. Metcalfe would be especially useful in her attempt to portray herself as a victim of the Republican ‘good-ol'-boys club,' given his social conservatism.”

A response on Tuesday by Kane's campaign, not her office, referred to Metcalfe as a Tea Party Republican attempting to “curry favor with the most extreme elements of his party.”

Metcalfe said he pursued it because Kane ignored her duty as attorney general by closing the sting case and by refusing to defend the state's ban on gay marriage in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Metcalfe said he plans no immediate committee vote. It's a long-term project that involves talking to as many members as possible, he said.

“I'll be actively working on holding this attorney general accountable,” he said.

Wes Oliver, a Duquesne University Law School professor, said because Metcalfe considers Kane's refusal to defend the gay marriage ban to be an article of impeachment “suggests it is an entirely politically motivated effort.”

“It makes her opposition seem completely unreasonable,” said Oliver, who contends she also had solid legal reasons for declining to prosecute the sting case.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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