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To protect gerrymandering, Pennsylvania GOP eyes impeachment push

The idea of impeaching Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices to protect gerrymandering has gone from the Republican fringe to the mainstream very quickly.
Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing Recent IRS Screening Scandal
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions current and former IRS employees while the testify before the Senate Finance Committee May 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Several years ago, Pennsylvania Republicans engaged in the kind of congressional gerrymandering that's tough to defend. The GOP-led state legislature took an evenly divided state, drew up 18 congressional districts, and put 13 of them safely in Republican hands.

It created a dynamic in which Democratic candidates won 51% of the vote in Pennsylvania, but received only 28% of the power.

The state Supreme Court rejected that map -- calling it "clearly, plainly, and palpably" unconstitutional -- and unveiled a new one last week when state policymakers couldn't come up with a compromise on their own. Republicans still have an advantage under the new district lines, but it's not nearly as outrageous as the GOP's previous version.

Not surprisingly, Republicans aren't pleased, but it's important to understand what GOP officials intend to do with their dissatisfaction.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said Wednesday during a press conference that the state's legislature should have a "conversation" about potentially impeaching the state's Supreme Court justices over a newly redrawn map. [...]"I think state House members and state senators are going to be speaking amongst themselves and their constituents, and the fundamental question is does this blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process, does that rise to the level of impeachment?" Toomey continued.

Just so we're clear, the "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process," in Toomey's mind, wasn't the corrupt gerrymandered map created by his GOP allies. Rather, he was referring to the court ruling that sought to rectify the blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process.

It's been amazing to watch the impeachment push spread quickly among Pennsylvania Republicans. The idea started as a fringe concept, limited to a handful of GOP state lawmakers, but it's quickly spread to include federal lawmakers, including Toomey and Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), who said the map is the result of a "politically corrupt process."

Again, he was referring to the court-approved map, not the politically corrupt process that led to the gerrymandered map he prefers.

So, is the impeachment push likely to succeed? The GOP-led state House has the authority to draw articles of impeachment, but it would fall to the state Senate to actually remove state Supreme Court justices from the bench. They would need a two-thirds majority to make that happen.

The Pennsylvania state Senate has 50 members -- 34 of whom are Republicans. In other words, the possibility of some kind of political crisis in the Keystone State is at least possible.

Postscript: Republicans still hope to reject the new map through a federal court challenge, though the consensus seems to be that their lawsuit will fail.