Proposed change to parliament’s rules on incapacitated MPs withdraws from committee amid GOP protest

A rule change that would create a recent process for removing Pennsylvania House lawmakers who become incapacitated passed the committee along party lines on Wednesday, sparking deafening opposition from GOP leaders.

House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) ordered the vote in the House Rules Committee. He introduced the resolution two weeks ago after partisan arguments erupted over whether Democrats should continue to vote for the lawmaker, who was absent due to a mental health crisis.

Democratic leaders removed Rep. Kevin Boyle (Philadelphia) from committee assignments and suspended his Capitol Hill security privileges in February after an embarrassing video of Boyle surfaced on social media. Republicans called for Boyle to be placed on leave after authorities announced on April 16 that he was facing arrest for violating a restraining order, and a week later said the arrest warrant had been issued in error.

Boyle’s whereabouts remain publicly unknown, and Bradford told reporters on Wednesday that he would not comment on conversations he had with his friend Boyle.

The recent rule would allow the leader of any caucus to request an investigation to determine whether a member of the leader’s party is unable to perform the duties of his or her office. If a legislator is found to be incapacitated, further steps may include suspension or expulsion from the House.

Republicans’ objections centered on the partisan makeup of the subcommittee tasked with assessing lawmakers’ competencies. It would consist of three members of the majority party and two members of the minority party.

Republican members of the Rules Committee also expressed concern about the lack of transparency of the secret process, the potential for misuse of lawmakers’ personal and medical information and the potential for abuse of the process to force a vote.

House Speaker Joanna McClinton (R-Philadelphia) ruled last month that only a signed letter from Boyle could invalidate the nomination allowing the Democratic whip to cast votes on his behalf in his absence from the chamber. Therefore, floor leaders had no authority to terminate Boyle’s mail-in ballot, McClinton said in the ruling, a finding affirmed in the committee’s assessment.

If Boyle were removed from the roll call, House Democrats would remain with a 101-100 numerical majority but would be unable to pass legislation without bipartisan support. The state constitution requires 102 votes to pass a bill.

The Republican lawmaker who won the April 23 special election is scheduled to be sworn in later this month to replace Republican Rep. Joseph Adams (R-Wayne), who resigned in January due to illness. Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Dauphin) remains on leave from his deployment to East Africa with the Pennsylvania National Guard.

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