HARRISBURG, Pa. --A select panel of Pennsylvania senators split along partisan lines Wednesday but endorsed an eventual floor vote on whether to remove state Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office because she lacks a valid law license.
The Special Committee on Senate Address voted 4-3 to hold a floor vote, but that's not likely to occur unless the state Supreme Court rules against a pending request by Kane, a Democrat, to have her license reinstated.
"We believe that this matter should be decided, either up or down, by the full Senate, after they have had an opportunity to review the documents," said the chairman, Sen. John Gordner, R-Columbia.
Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said the committee's recommendation to wait for action on her law license was the right decision, but Kane maintains the process being considered is unconstitutional.
Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery, a member of the committee, said it was "simply wrong" to bring up a floor vote, and urged senators not to act against the embattled attorney general.
"The special committee did not recommend removal because there's no evidence to do so," Haywood said in a release.
Gordner said he believes Kane should be removed from office.
Removal requires a supermajority, so supporters would have to attract Democratic votes.
The House on Tuesday began what could turn into a parallel removal process by passing a resolution in the Judiciary Committee. The House process would involve impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate.
Kane has been without a valid law license since October, when it was put under temporary, indefinite suspension. She has argued most of the attorney general's duties do not require a licensed lawyer, although the committee heard from county prosecutors who flatly contradicted her.
Kane is fighting criminal charges filed in August by county prosecutors outside Philadelphia, alleging she leaked secret grand jury material and lied about it under oath.
She has said she wants to run for the Democratic nomination for a second term in the April 26 primary, and candidates began circulating nominating petitions this week.
Senate officials said the Kane removal debate can now be initiated by any individual senator, but moving forward before the Supreme Court decision on her law license would likely not have leadership support.
One of the three candidates who also wants the Democratic nomination for attorney general, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, said at a Capitol news conference earlier Wednesday that Kane should cancel an outside review of her agency's emails.
Morganelli called the investigation by Washington lawyer Doug Gansler a waste of money, arguing it was unrelated to any allegations of criminal activity.
He called the attorney general's office "a paralyzed and divided ship, adrift at sea," with employees currently in "outright revolt."
Gansler said he was not surprised that Kane's decisions are under scrutiny during a political campaign.
"The train has left the station as to whether or not there ought to be an independent investigation into this matter," Gansler said.
Gansler and his firm could be paid more than $1 million to review the email traffic and issue a report.
The exchange of pornographic and explicit emails, including content demeaning toward women and minority groups, has resulted in a state Supreme Court justice abruptly retiring, another facing pending ethics charges, and discipline for dozens of state employees.
Kane's top deputy, Bruce Beemer, has raised questions about the legality of hiring Gansler and his firm.