HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's top prosecutor faces a new threat to her hold on office after a state Senate committee recommended Wednesday that the full chamber consider whether to remove her from the job as she fights criminal charges.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane is running her divided office with a suspended law license. She was charged in August with perjury and obstruction for allegedly leaking secret investigative material to a newspaper and lying under oath about it.
The Special Committee on Senate Address said in a 21-page report that it voted 5-2 to recommend that the full Senate start a formal process that could result in a vote to remove her.
It made the recommendation after holding three public hearings this month, including one in which top lieutenants testified that Kane's unprecedented lack of a law license has exposed its cases to legal jeopardy.
Kane's spokesman, Jeff Johnson, said Kane was reviewing the report and intends to release a statement later in the day.
She was the first Democrat and woman elected as attorney general. All four of the panel's Republicans voted to pursue an inquiry into Kane's removal; two of the panel's three Democrats voted against it. It unanimously rejected Kane's argument that the Senate lacks the authority to remove her.
The Senate must still vote on whether to start the formal inquiry, which falls under an obscure constitutional provision. The committee said within 15 days it will give the Senate a proposed resolution to consider that would start the process.
The chamber is controlled by Republicans, 31-19. Should it accept the recommendation, the Senate would hold a hearing to give Kane a chance to defend herself and could ultimately vote on whether to remove her. That process could take weeks, and a vote to remove her must win the approval of two-thirds of the chamber, or 34 senators, to be successful.
The constitutional provision says the governor shall remove officers after the Senate votes for it. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has urged Kane to resign, but she has resisted.
It isn't clear whether Kane will ask a court to block the process. Kane won the office in a landslide in 2012. Her term expires in January 2017.