WASHINGTON — Four freshman Democrats from Pennsylvania are at the center of the U.S. House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County’s 4th District; Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware County’s 5th District; Chrissy Houlahan of Chester County’s 6th District, and Susan Wild of the Lehigh Valley-based 7th District — all freshmen Democrats elected in the 2018 blue wave — are on the panels spearheading the impeachment proceedings.
As House Democrats plow ahead with their investigation into whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponent, members of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees have been leading the effort, holding closed-door depositions with current and former administration officials.
Houlahan and Wild, who both serve on the Foreign Affairs panel, were among the House Democrats who held out for months after many of their colleagues had already called for an impeachment inquiry. They both threw their support behind the investigation in September following reports that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian president.
Wild has attended parts of the depositions that have taken place so far, she told the Capital-Star in an interview this week, in order to stay informed about what’s going on.
“I’m completely in favor of the way the process has unfolded,” she said, noting that she approves of the closed-door sessions so far and the plans for public hearings that Democrats say will mark the next chapter of the proceedings.
Houlahan is also “very grateful” that the House is moving to open the proceedings, she told CNN this week. After sitting through some of the closed sessions, she said, she’s eager for the public to have access to the same information.
She’s also no fan of what she called a “deeply destructive” impeachment process, Houlahan said. “It really will divide — has already divided our nation in a very dangerous way and I don’t take that light-heartedly.” She and other Democrats have argued that Trump’s behavior gave them no choice but to proceed down that path.
Three Pennsylvania Republicans also serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee: U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, of the Bucks County-based 1st District; Scott Perry, of central Pennsylvania’s 10th District, and Guy Reschenthaler, of the southwestern Pennsylvania-based 14th District.
Republican Rep. Fred Keller, a freshman representing the 12th District in north-central Pennsylvania, serves on the Oversight panel. All four of those Pennsylvania Republicans joined the rest of the GOP members of the delegation last month voting against Democrats’ resolution to move ahead on the impeachment inquiry.
The House is scheduled to launch public impeachment hearings next week centered in the Intelligence Committee. No Pennsylvania lawmakers sit on that panel.
Ultimately, the leaders of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees are expected to submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to draft and vote on articles of impeachment, possibly before the end of this year.
Scanlon and Dean both serve on Judiciary, where they’re in a position to shape articles of impeachment that may go to the House floor.
“I feel that we are in a very important place in Judiciary,” Dean said this week in an interview. She and the eight other Pennsylvania House Democrats voted in favor of the resolution last month laying out ground rules for the impeachment inquiry.
When she signed up for the committee, Scanlon said this week, “I certainly expected to be involved in pushing back on some of the violations of the rule of law by this administration.”
She added, “I do think that there are a lot of freshman members involved in the inquiry because so many of us ran because we were disturbed by what we saw as a challenge to the rule of law and feeling that it was really important to stand up for the Constitution.”
Reschenthaler also serves on the Judiciary Committee, where he’s expected to be among the Republicans defending Trump during any future debate over articles of impeachment. In September, he called the inquiry “political theatre” and he derided the process as “Soviet-esque” in a recent Fox News interview. He declined a request to comment for this story.
Several other Pennsylvanians serve on the Ways & Means Committee, which is among the panels broadly involved in impeachment investigations. That committee is pushing for Trump’s tax returns, but hasn’t been central to the Ukraine probe that has dominated the recent discussions. Philadelphia Democratic Reps. Brendan Boyle, of the 2nd District, and Dwight Evans, of the 3rd District, as well as GOP U.S. Mike Kelly, of northwestern Pennsylvania’s 16th District, all sit on Ways & Means.
The Pennsylvania delegation doesn’t appear to be having many across-the-aisle conversations about impeachment.
“I have not had any internal meetings with the delegation,” Dean said. “I would like to see if we can’t come to some common understandings of process, of topline rights and wrongs.”
Scanlon said that while she and Dean have worked with Reschenthaler on legislation, they haven’t had bipartisan talks about the polarizing topic of impeachment.
Wild said she doesn’t talk much about the issue with Houlahan, Dean and Scanlon, although the four have stayed close after entering Congress together.
“We see each other a lot, we talk by text and that kind of thing,” Wild said. “Rarely are we talking about the I-word.”