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Pennsylvania Republican wants to impeach judges in gerrymandering case

Faced with a Friday deadline to redraw the state's congressional maps, Pennsylvania Republicans are instead insisting...

Posted: Feb. 7, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Feb. 7, 2018 10:30 AM

Faced with a Friday deadline to redraw the state's congressional maps, Pennsylvania Republicans are instead insisting they'll continue to fight against the state Supreme Court -- with one lawmaker calling for justices' impeachment.

State Rep. Cris Dush circulated a letter to House colleagues Monday urging the ouster of five justices who ruled that the legislature must redraw Pennsylvania's gerrymandered maps.

"The five Justices who signed this order that blatantly and clearly contradicts the plain language of the Pennsylvania Constitution, engaged in misbehavior in office," a memo from Dush read. "Each is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office and disqualification to hold any office or trust or profit under this Commonwealth."

His letter comes the day after the US Supreme Court refused state GOP lawmakers' request to block the state Supreme Court's January 22 order that new congressional maps be drawn this year -- ahead of midterm elections in which Democrats hope to pick up several Philadelphia-area seats.

Republicans currently hold 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts -- but Democrats have included three in the Philadelphia suburbs and one in Lehigh Valley among their top targets this fall as they seek to flip 24 seats and take control of Congress. New maps could shift the partisan makeup of several districts in Democrats' favor.

"When the Supreme Court oversteps its authority, the only remedy that is left in the checks and balances system is for impeachment," Dush told CNN Tuesday. "Otherwise, this is allowed to continue and go on, and we simply cannot allow that to happen."

Impeachment in Pennsylvania requires votes by the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate. Republicans hold 34 of Pennsylvania's 50 state Senate seats.

Dush said his sense of the GOP-led state Senate is that if the House approves his measure calling for the justices' impeachment, "there's a mood over there" to do the same.

He specifically took issue with the state Supreme Court's timeline for new maps: Lawmakers have until February 9 to send redrawn districts to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf -- who has until February 15 to decide whether to sign or veto those maps. If lawmakers and the governor don't implement new maps by that date, the justices will take over the process.

That process, Dush said, means state lawmakers are stripped of their usual authority to overturn a governor's veto -- or to respond to the governor with altered maps. He also complained that Pennsylvania justices did not lay out standards that new maps should meet.

"We have no idea what they want. They have not told us. And you can't try to meet their requirements when you don't know what their requirements are," Dush said in the interview.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai -- the top two Republicans in the state -- also said they aren't backing down.

"We still do not believe that there was a violation of the state Constitution, that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court can direct us to draw a new congressional map, or that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has the authority to draw a new Congressional District Map under the Pennsylvania Constitution or United States Constitution," the two said in a joint statement.

They said they will "do our best" to comply with the state Supreme Court's order to redraw the congressional map, "but may be compelled to pursue further legal action in federal court."

The new maps would not affect a March 13 special election to replace Republican Rep. Tim Murphy who resigned last year.

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