HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania's embattled attorney general survived a Senate vote to remove her from office on Wednesday as all but one of her fellow Democrats stood by her, defeating a resolution that said her lack of a valid law license had rendered her unable to perform her official duties.
The 29-19 vote fell several votes short of the two-thirds required in the 50-seat Senate under a provision of the state constitution that gives the chamber the ability to remove elected civil officers without going through the House-initiated impeachment process.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane has been without a valid law license since October and is defending herself against criminal allegations she leaked secret grand jury material and lied about it. She has been dismissive of the Senate process, saying it violated the state constitution as well as the will of voters who elected her more than three years ago. Her spokesman said she was preparing a statement in response to the vote.
While the Senate was debating the resolution at one end of the Capitol, the House was voting 170-12 to authorize the Judiciary Committee to recommend whether Kane should be impeached. If the House does impeach her, a trial on her removal would then occur in the Senate.
Senate Democrats argued there was not much evidence her suspension has kept the 800-plus-employee agency from operating properly and warned removal would have set a dangerous precedent, giving the chamber the ability to take out office holders with scant evidence and on short notice.
"Such a drastic measure, to recommend the removal of a statewide elected official, requires more than maybes and speculation," said Sen. Sean Wiley, D-Erie, who voted no. "It has been made clear to me that the evidence does not lend itself to moving forward with this vote for removal."
Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, a yes vote, said it was in the public's best interests to have someone in the post who can serve as a lawyer.
"Kathleen Kane cannot perform as the commonwealth's lawyer," Baker said. "What overriding public purpose is there in retaining a title when she cannot perform the duties of the job?"
One Democrat, Sen. Rob Teplitz, supported her removal, and one Republican, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, opposed it.
Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state's attorney general, faces perjury and other charges for allegedly leaking secret grand jury material and lying about it under oath. Trial is scheduled for August in a suburban Philadelphia courtroom.
She also is collecting signatures to get on the April 26 primary ballot for a second term.