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Senate to vote Wednesday on Kane ouster

HARRISBURG - In a pivotal moment for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's political future, the state Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether she should be removed from office.

HARRISBURG - In a pivotal moment for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's political future, the state Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether she should be removed from office.

In the high-stakes vote, senators will be asked to decide whether Kane, whose law license was suspended after she was criminally charged last year, can continue effectively running her office.

If the Senate votes to oust her, its recommendation would be sent to Gov. Wolf, who would make the final decision.

Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo on Monday called the planned vote to remove the state's top law enforcement officer "unwarranted and unconstitutional."

"Our system of justice is founded on a presumption of innocence - and she is being denied that presumption," he said.

Ardo would not say whether Kane, 49, a Democrat, intended to bring any new legal action in an effort to prevent the vote.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court rejected Kane's request that it restore her law license. This cleared the way for GOP leaders to set the date for the vote.

The Senate launched the removal process against Kane last fall, relying on a little-known provision in the state constitution that has not been used in more than a century.

Under the provision, the governor can remove an elected official from office after a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

It was not clear Monday whether there were enough votes in the chamber to oust her.

Removing Kane would mean that at least three Democrats would have to agree, provided that all 30 Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber vote in favor.

Kane has said the only legal way to remove her is through impeachment, a much lengthier process that requires a full investigation in the House and a trial in the Senate. The House is scheduled to vote as early as Wednesday on whether to formally launch impeachment proceedings.

This month, Kane appealed on an emergency basis to the Supreme Court, asking it to reverse its suspension of her license.

She contended that one of its justices had a conflict - that he had participated in the email scandal that she exposed - and should not have voted to suspend her.

The court rejected Kane's appeal, saying she filed her request too late. It did not rule on the substance of her argument.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) said several Democrats were questioning the necessity of voting on Kane's removal, and believe there is ample evidence that she can continue running the Attorney General's Office with a suspended law license.

"It's a major issue," Costa said. "And is it really our job to determine whether she can or cannot perform the functions of her office?"

Wolf called on Kane to resign as her legal troubles mounted, but has stopped short of saying what he would do if the Senate were to send him a resolution to remove her.

Kane was charged with perjury, conspiracy, and other crimes last summer. Prosecutors say she surreptitiously released confidential grand jury information in an effort to embarrass a former prosecutor with whom she was feuding and later lied about her actions under oath. She has pleaded not guilty and her trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 8.

In determining whether to remove Kane from office, the Senate held a series of hearings last fall to examine the narrow question of whether she can continue to run the office with a suspended law license.

Kane has said the majority of her duties are administrative and do not require her to make day-to-day legal decisions.

But during last year's hearings, legal and constitutional experts, as well as some of Kane's top deputies, said they believed she could not effectively run the office with a suspended law license because so much of the job involved making legal decisions.