In a party-line vote Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House Rules Committee approved a resolution to form a new committee that would operate in secret to determine whether a member is incapacitated.

The move comes in the wake of the disappearance of Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia), who is reportedly suffering from mental illness. If passed by the full House, the committee would have the authority to subpoena medical records and to suspend a member without pay.

House Minority Leader Bryan Culter (R-Lancaster) vehemently objected to this resolution, saying there was no need since the ethics committee could already handle injuries.

However, Majority Leader Matthew Bradford (D-Norristown) defended the move, saying it was needed and accusing members of slandering Boyle during previous public discussions. He claimed Cutler was engaging in “political theater.”

“If the conduct of a member rises to the level of being put before a secret tribunal, maybe it should also rise to the level of being expelled,” said Cutler. “I believe this is ripe for challenge in the courts, and it is unconstitutional.”

Bradford said it was “a delicate, personal issue,” and the member remains “in our prayers and thoughts.”

“We are dealing with an unparalleled and historic challenge,” said Bradford. “But one this majority will deal with. Cutler tried to ask a question, and Bradford told him, “We’ve already listened to you,  ad nauseam.”

Talking to the press afterward, Cutler said he had less than half an hour to review the resolution, which was changed from earlier versions, and it wasn’t publicly available before the meeting. He called the new committee “an inquisition.”

“This situation is very politicized,” said Cutler. “They actively ran a candidate against the gentlemen (Boyle).” The Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, Sean Dougherty, bested Boyle in the primary.

And whether someone is capable of serving should be left to doctors to decide, Cutler said.

Cutler said that the Democrats are only creating this new committee and process so they can continue to pass legislation 102-101 through the budget cycle. The state budget is due to be adopted June 30. The Democrats have been voting for Boyle by proxy in his absence.

“It’s very, very wrong,” said Cutler. When it comes to removing anybody from this chamber, they have a constitutional right to come to the well and defend themselves.”

He added that if the secret committee voted to expel someone, the entire House would need to vote, and the information would then become public.

“The process and case law are very clear,” said Cutler. “We don’t need an unnecessary rule change to defend the Democrats’ majority as we head into the budget.”

Cutler also accused the Democrats of going back and rewriting the digital accounts of what occurred in this process.

“A tribunal held in secret as well as secretly rewriting the journal weeks after things occur is not how the commonwealth should be run and once again demonstrates why they should not be in charge,” said Cutler.

Rep. Tim O’Neal (R-Washington), the Republican whip,  said, “One of the things I hear quite often in political campaigns throughout the commonwealth and around the country is, ‘Our democracy is at stake.’ Let that sink in. Our democracy is at stake—a clear narrative across the country. But the majority just passed out of the rules committee the ability to suspend without pay a duly elected representative of the People’s House, under the sole recommendation of the leader of the party and a simple majority vote of five members. So we now have power rested in the czar and the oligarchs that surround him.

There is nothing Democratic about what we just did. It is an insult to this institution. And it is an insult to our constitution of this commonwealth,” O’Neal said.

Culter noted that the Democrats spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for Dougherty’s campaign against Boyle, running commercials with the same information. “Were they also slanderous?” he asked.

Bradford did not respond to a request for comment on the resolution, which would need to be passed by the entire House before it could take effect.


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