PA Lawmakers Introduce Impeachment Bill Against Gov. Wolf

HARRISBURG —More than two dozen state legislators are mounting an impeachment effort against Gov. Tom Wolf because of his actions during the coronavirus outbreak. A bill containing five articles of impeachment was introduced Tuesday in the state House; the measure was sponsored by Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County and has 24 co-sponsors.

The bill calls for Wolf's impeachment because:

  • His shutdown orders for two months amid the outbreak's peak in the state deprived state residents of their constitutional rights. "Wolf's orders violate the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly rights guaranteed by the First Amendment," the bill states.

  • His business shutdown edict unfairly harmed small businesses while allowing larger ones to continue operating. Additionally, a controversial waiver process in which individual businesses could appeal the shutdown order "was applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner, leading to inconsistent and unjust results," the measure alleges.

  • He failed to sufficiently staff unemployment compensation offices during the shutdown, forcing some people to wait weeks to receive word that they were eligible for unemployment benefits. "Desperate citizens of this Commonwealth have been unable to get assistance over the phone or via email from unemployment compensation offices to determine when they will receive benefits," the bill contends.

  • He failed to properly protect the most vulnerable to COVID-19, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities where the majority of coronavirus deaths have occurred. "Although Gov. Wolf had ample notice that residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities were at severe risk of dying from COVID-19, (he) failed to direct the Department of Health to develop and implement a comprehensive plan" that addressed the outbreak in such facilities.

  • He has actively withheld critical information pertaining to the outbreak from the public, media and General Assembly. "State agencies under Gov. Wolf's jurisdiction have stopped responding to requests under the Right-to-Know law during the COVID-19 outbreak," the bill states.

“While these are certainly unprecedented and chaotic times, Gov. Tom Wolf must be held accountable for his actions that have harmed so many of our citizens and violated so many of our rights," Metcalfe said in a release. “Wolf’s unconstitutional dictates and Orwellian overreach into our lives and the marketplace has caused immeasurable harm and hardship for far more Pennsylvanians than the virus."

Wolf's office called the bill's introduction "the latest example of House Republicans wasting time instead of helping to protect Pennsylvanians during this public health crisis."

"Over the past three months, Gov. Wolf has made very difficult decisions to combat this pandemic and to protect the life and health of all Pennsylvanians," Wolf press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said.

"To reopen our commonwealth, the governor, based on the advice of expert epidemiologists and public health officials, has instituted a measured, phased-in approach so as not to undo our hard work and as outlined in the governor’s announcement last Friday, this reopening plan is succeeding. "

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center data, Pennsylvania is among the states with a sustained decline in coronavirus cases over the past two weeks. An Associated Press analysis showed more than half the states in the country. are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases as reopening begins. Pennsylvania is not among them.

"The administration will continue to move forward with this successful approach that includes factors relying on science and the advice of health experts," Kensinger said.

Under the state Constitution, the House has the sole power of impeachment. If that occurs, two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to remove the governor for him to be ousted.

The impeachment bill is the latest action in an escalating battle between Wolf and lawmakers over how state government should handle the response to the outbreak. The governor has been under mounting pressure from legislators on both sides of the aisle to lift many of the mitigation measures.

Lawmakers passed a resolution last week directing Wolf to end the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration and lift all shutdown orders. The measure was an attempt to end the executive order that closed businesses in March.

Wolf fired back that the state will continue to reopen in a measured and careful way. He said the disaster proclamation can't be terminated by the General Assembly and then "disapproved" HR 836.

This article originally appeared on the Pittsburgh Patch