Pennsylvania House Considers Forming Secretive Committee With Power to Expel Members

‘It is one of the most dangerous resolutions that I’ve ever seen introduced in this body,’ Minority Chair Bryan Cutler said.

Despite heated opposition from Republicans this week, majority Democrats on Pennsylvania’s House Committee on Rules, have passed a resolution to create a subcommittee that would run secret incapacity inquiries on other House members.

The proposed subcommittee, introduced on May 8, by House Majority leader Rep. Matthew Bradford, a Democrat, would have the power to suspend publicly elected members with or without pay. The measure passed along party lines, with 18 Democrats in support of the rule change and 14 Republicans opposed.

“It is one of the most dangerous resolutions that I’ve ever seen introduced in this body,” Minority Chair Bryan Cutler, a Republican, said during the Rules Committee meeting. “I do not speak lightly or with hyperbole when I say that this creates an involuntary commitment committee. The committee formed in this resolution is a stacked, secret, one-sided panel, able to compel members to potentially testify against themselves outside of the public eye.”

Republicans said the plan creates a partisan group that would always favor the majority. The subcommittee would be made up of five people, the House speaker, the majority leader, the majority caucus chair, the minority leader, and the minority caucus chair.

“The subcommittee may take or direct whatever action it deems necessary or proper to determine incapacity,” the resolution reads. And it indicates that members could not even say if they are in the process of investigating someone. “All meetings and materials related to the inquiry, and the existence of such inquiry, shall not be open to the public and shall be confidential.”

Only the floor leaders of the same party as the House member being considered for suspension may call for an incapacity inquiry.

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“This is a nonpartisan process. In fact, it is so non-partisan, it can only be initiated by a member of one’s own leadership,” Mr. Bradford said.

Medical Records

Republicans are also concerned about the legal implications of the subcommittee’s intention to request medical records of members it examines.

“The subpoena power that is granted under this authority could reach deep into the medical records of all women in this chamber that are brought before this committee,” Rep. Martina White said during discussion.

She is worried the committee issuing a subpoena for medical records could find abortions that women may have had, or records regarding postpartum depression or other issues they may wish to keep private. “I find that this committee is an absolute insult. And it’s something that should not be permitted to take place. especially because it would be in the control of just one majority party. you are placing the power of the many into the hands of the very few.”

With this committee, anyone who runs for a House seat would potentially give up their privacy rights, risking having their healthcare and financial records subpoenaed, Republicans said. The state already has an Ethics Committee that handles this same function.

Rep. Seth Grove, a Republican, said an inquisition committee with no cameras and no transparency is bound to face expensive litigation.

“We are constitutionally elected officers,” Mr. Grove said. “At the end of the day, voters make their decision. There is a process in place to expel a member that requires a two-thirds vote of this body. We’re adding cost and creating a partisan process.”

The discussion was led by Republicans. No Democrat on the Rules Committee spoke to explain their support for creating the committee.

“We’re going to very quickly move to a vote on this.” Mr. Bradford said, and although Republican committee members wanted to continue the discussion, Mr. Bradford shut it down, immediately called for a vote, got it passed, and quickly adjourned the meeting.

The resolution was passed out of committee, and it next goes to the floor for a full chamber vote. It is likely to pass with the Democrat majority. A House floor vote is the final step before it is established because the resolution is a House rule, meaning that neither the Senate nor the governor is involved.

“The double-secret mental health fitness committee created by House Democrats to investigate one of their own members is the most dangerous proposal I have seen during my time in the Legislature,” Mr. Cutler said in a statement after the measure passed out of committee. He said it goes against American values by privately determining the fate of elected officials.

“I will not participate in a weaponized retribution committee that can make determinations, violate health privacy, and adjudicate member fitness entirely outside of the public view and does not allow minority positions.”

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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