Pa. lawmakers show their cards ahead of impeachment vote

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania Democrats on Wednesday delivered forceful pleas for the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump, while their Republican colleague helped lead the president’s defense. 

“We have no principled alternative but to support these articles of impeachment,” Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, told the House Judiciary Committee as the panel prepares to vote Thursday on two impeachment articles charging Trump with abusing his power and obstructing Congress. 

“I believe that he betrayed the American people,” she added. “There is no higher crime under our Constitution than that. This is exactly the type of behavior that our founders feared most.” 

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, 4th-District, the other Pennsylvania Democrat on the committee, called the president’s wrongdoing clear and dangerous. She said impeachment “is not about punishment or hate. It is about love. It is about love of this country. It’s about protecting this country and our precious Constitution.” 

In the committee debate that went late into Wednesday night, lawmakers on both sides assailed their colleagues across the aisle, accusing them of overt partisanship. 

Democrats implored Republicans to put politics aside and break ranks with the GOP to rebuke Trump; Republicans defended the president and accused the majority of fabricating a case in an attempt to oust an executive whose policies they have loathed since he assumed the White House. 

After the public sparring, the Democratic majority on the committee is expected to approve impeachment articles, sending them to the full House floor for a vote. If they’re approved by the House as expected, a Senate trial will likely be held early next year. 

‘Political hit job’ 

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District, the lone Pennsylvania Republican on the committee, joined his GOP colleagues in deriding the proceedings. 

“Let’s not forget that this is a political hit job,” he said. “Democrats just know they can’t beat President Trump in 2020.”

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, accused Democrats of pursuing a three-year vendetta against Trump. 

“This is not new. We’ve been trying this for almost three years,” Collins said of the efforts to impeach Trump. “The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from last November when you became the majority,” he told Democrats. 

Republicans also warned Democrats that the impeachment proceedings would help Trump keep the White House in the 2020 election and could help the GOP reclaim the House majority. 

“This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest, most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history,” said U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., He referred to the process as a “scorched earth strategy” by the Democrats and “hot garbage impeachment.” 

Gaetz added, “We’ll see you on the field in 2020.” 

‘One heck of an emergency’ 

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who was a staffer to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon in 1974, pointed to Republican lawmakers who supported impeachment following the Watergate scandal. 

One of them was Rep. Lawrence J. Hogan Sr. —  a Maryland Republican and the current governor’s father. “Unless Richard Nixon is removed from office and the disease of Watergate, which has sapped the vitality of our government, is purged from the body politic, government and politics will continue to be clouded by mistrust and suspicion,” Hogan said at the time, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Virginia Rep. Manley Caldwell Butler was another Republican who turned against the majority of his party to support Nixon’s impeachment, even though his own mother had warned him that a vote against the Republican president would spell political doom. 

“Dear Mother, you are probably right. However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me of the obligation which I have,” the congressman told her, according to The New York Times. He believed Nixon had lied and obstructed justice.

As the committee and the full House move toward what’s almost certain to be a highly partisan vote, Lofgren asked Wednesday, “Where are the Caldwell Butlers and Larry Hogans of today in the Republican Party?”