WASHINGTON — Two Democrats from suburban Philadelphia were set Thursday to cast some of the first formal votes to impeach President Donald Trump.
Reps. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County, and Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware County, sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which debated two articles of impeachment Thursday and was scheduled to vote on them in the evening. That move would send the full House formal charges against a president for only the fourth time in American history.
Dean and Scanlon, the only Philadelphia-area lawmakers on the committee, have said they will support the two articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“I took an oath to support and defend this Constitution, and to put my country before myself," Scanlon said Wednesday night, as the committee opened its debate. "The question we must answer today — not only as members of Congress but as Americans — is, ‘Will we accept a president who refuses to do the same?’ ”
Scanlon, like other Democrats, pointed to accusations and sworn testimony that Trump withheld foreign aid to Ukraine and a White House visit to pressure the country into announcing politically motivated investigations — and then tried to conceal his actions by blocking administration officials from testifying before Congress. Trump has said he acted appropriately and Republicans in Congress have dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a sham.
As the debate stretched into Thursday evening, Scanlon cited the White House’s own account of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “If it looks like a duck and it swims like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, and I’m afraid that the July 25 call is a duck,” she said. “We have the president’s own words: ‘I want you to do us a favor, though.’ ”
Dean said Trump’s behavior threatens U.S. elections and the ability to hold a president accountable.
“The evidence shows the president’s wrongdoing," Dean said Wednesday. "He has abused the power of his office as president for personal gain, including his corrupt scheme to win reelection.”
As Democrats beat back GOP amendments and procedural moves Thursday, Dean defended the House’s power to seek information and bring an impeachment. “These are matters which under the Constitution the House has the sole power to determine," she said. "Sole, not shared with the executive; sole, not shared with the court.”
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee cast the charges against Trump as an attempt to overturn the 2016 election, driven by Democrats’ hatred of the president.
They argued Trump was within his rights to withhold military aid. They have said Trump was only interested in fighting corruption in Ukraine — though the only investigations he requested in the July call were of Joe Biden and a discredited theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections.
The lone Pennsylvania Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, who represents a southwestern part of the state, said the only abuse of power has been by Democrats.
“Let’s call this for what it is: a political hit job,” Reschenthaler said.
The impeachment articles were widely expected to pass the committee Thursday and the full, Democratic-controlled House next week. Some Democrats from moderate districts might break away and oppose impeachment.
One of those moderate Democrats who will be voting for impeachment is Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, who told a Pittsburgh TV station Thursday of his decision. “The evidence is strong, and it warrants impeachment,” he told WTAE.
One consistent Democratic opponent has been Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who argued that there wasn’t enough evidence of wrongdoing and that impeachment would be too divisive.
Other Democrats from moderate districts in the Philadelphia area have withheld final judgment on the formal charges, despite supporting the move to begin the inquiry. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, the region’s only House Republican, has opposed the impeachment inquiry.
If the full House approves the impeachment charges, the Senate is expected to hold a trial in January, where the GOP-controlled chamber is almost certain to acquit the president.