Pennsylvania woman elected to Congress in Pink Wave of 2018 poised to shape Trump's fate

Candy Woodall, York Daily Record
Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, a civil rights attorney from the Philadelphia area, was elected to the U.S. House during the Pink Wave in 2018. She is the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which would draft the articles of impeachment against the president.

One of the women who made history in Pennsylvania during the 2018 Pink Wave, when a record number of women ran for office and won, has an important role in deciding the fate of President Donald Trump.

As a Democrat and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon belongs to the majority party that will decide whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.

After one day of impeachment hearings, the civil rights lawyer from Philadelphia said she’s heard enough to know the president abused his power and violated the U.S. Constitution.

“He tried to shakedown the president of Ukraine to give him dirt on a political opponent,” Scanlon said Thursday afternoon during a phone interview.

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Democrats have been sticking to the same message that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo, requiring an investigation into the Bidens’ business dealings in Ukraine if the country wanted military aid approved by Congress to defend itself against Russia.

Republicans first argued there was no quid pro quo. This week they said there was an attempt at a quid pro quo, but it wasn’t successful. The Bidens weren’t investigated, and Ukraine received the aid. An attempt is not impeachable, several Republicans said Tuesday.

Scanlon disagrees with that.

“The reason they weren’t successful is because the inspector general caught them,” the congresswoman said of the Trump administration. “An attempt is still impeachable. Ask Richard Nixon.”

These four women from Pennsylvania were elected to Congress in 2018 during the Pink Wave. This marks the first time the state has had four women in the state delegation. They call themselves the "Fab Four." From left to right, they are Mary Gay Scanlon, a civil rights lawyer from the Philadelphia area; Madeleine Dean, a former state representative; Susan Wild, a former city solicitor in Allentown; Chrissy Houlahan, a retired chemistry teacher and military veteran.

Historical proportions

Scanlon said there’s very much a sense of history when she walks the halls of Congress these days.

She was in 10th grade during the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s fall. With the House and Senate expected to impeach him, the former Republican president resigned in the face of mounting scrutiny and impending doom.

“We will look to history” as the House Judiciary Committee considers articles of impeachment, she said.

The current committee will look at an authoritative report from the 1974 House Judiciary Committee and determine what prior articles looked like. The will examine similarities and differences.

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from the Philadelphia suburbs, isn’t new to Congress, but she was re-elected during the Pink Wave and is also part of the House Judiciary Committee this year.

She could not be reached for a phone interview, but in a statement she said the House Judiciary Committee will pay close attention to the House Intelligence Committee hearings this week and next week.

“This is the right step to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to move forward with articles of impeachment,” Dean said. “The American people will hear directly from witnesses in an open setting—where the President and his counsel will have ample opportunity to state their case.”

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia suburbs in Congress, is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Once the impeachment hearings conclude, the issue moves to the judiciary committee, which would draft articles of impeachment against the president.

Dean shared the sentiment of Scanlon that this is a sobering moment in the country’s history.

“Our goals are simple: to get to the truth, and to ensure that this investigation is conducted in a manner befitting its gravity. No one is above the law, and Congress has a solemn duty to uphold the Constitution,” Dean said.

Democrats continue to compare this impeachment inquiry to that of Nixon, a Republican, and not former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Democrats argue that is because both Nixon and Trump abused their power in an effort to defeat a political opponent.

The Watergate scandal refers to a break-in at The Watergate Hotel, where operatives tried to get information on the 1972 Democratic campaign at the party’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Nixon's top aides convinced him that the Senate would likely remove him from office for role in a cover-up of the break-in.

Terry Madonna, a pollster and political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College, doesn’t see the Nixon and Trump scandals as apples to apples.

At best, he said, “It’s roughly parallel,” he said.

One of the biggest differences is the role women will play in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, according to Madonna.

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U.S. Rep Mary Gay Scanlon said she regularly corresponds with constituents and holds a town hall every month.

From Pink Wave to power

Scanlon and Dean were elected in 2018 with two other women in Pennsylvania and about three dozen more across the country. It was a record for the state and the nation.

These women didn’t just make it to Congress. They are getting things done.

For example, since she took office in January, Scanlon has:

  • Organized and led the 13-hour live reading of the Mueller Report
  • Led the floor debate on the Violence Against Women Act
  • Introduced and co-sponsored more than 330 bills
  • Participated in more than 120 hearings
  • Cast more than 650 votes
  • Held 11 town halls
  • Closed 477 constituent cases
  • Became a member of 39 caucuses, including Black Maternal Health, EMS, Bipartisan Taskforce on Addiction and Recovery, Manufacturing, Building Trades, Legal Aid, Servicewomen and Women Veterans, Gun Violence Prevention, LGBT Equality, and the Taskforce on Poverty and Opportunity

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that women will continue to be elected in greater numbers and rise through the ranks,” Madonna said.

Scanlon getting picked as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee is a sign she’s being groomed for leadership, he said.

“Leadership positions are particularly important. These are transitional and ultimately allow higher positions in Congress,” Madonna said.

As the trend of women in office grows, they will gain seniority and continue to rise into significant positions, he said.

Also, women make up one of the biggest voting blocs. They’re electing other women and also Democrats.

College-educated women were a big reason why Democrats won 40 seats back in 2018, Madonna said.

He expects this trend will continue and doesn’t see it as a “one and done.”

There’s already evidence of that, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at the Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics.

In an analysis of the 2018 election and 2020 race, the center points out that a historic number of women are running in 2020.

All of them support the impeachment efforts in the House. Furthermore, most of the women elected in 2018 have already publicly declared support for the impeachment, including Scanlon and Dean.

And many of the candidates who lost in 2018 have also publicly supported impeachment and are running again in 2020.

“Early signs from the 2020 cycle indicate that women will continue to disrupt U.S. electoral politics,” the center’s analysis said.

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A newly elected congresswoman in 2018, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon was chosen this year by her peers to be the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee which, among other things, is tasked with drafting articles of impeachment against the president.

Congresswoman and the Founding Fathers

When Scanlon studies the latest reports in the impeachment testimonies, she can’t help but think of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”

“We’re meeting ‘in the room where it happens’ to borrow a phrase,” she said, referring to a song title from Act II of the musical.

The song is essentially about being in the thick of things when decisions are made.

That’s the room Scanlon finds herself in now.

“It’s very sobering every day. I feel the gravity of it,” she said. “It makes you feel an affinity for the Founding Fathers.”

Farmers, merchants, lawyers and others came together to form a government, and they provided a framework for what is an impeachable offense, such as treason and bribery.

“We will look to history,” she said again, as the committee looks at articles of impeachment against Trump. “There are a lot of different things we have to consider.”

The list includes, potentially, an abuse of pardon power, conspiring with foreign governments, bribery and more.

Impeaching the president was not a goal Scanlon had when she was running for office in 2018.

“I wanted to go to D.C. to stand up to abuses, intemperate language that lowers public discourse, the caging of children and treatment of women,” she said.

This year, she wants to continue standing up for her constituents, whose top concerns are health care, gun safety, student loans and the environment.

The impeachment inquiry, shown again during public hearings Friday, is just part of her work as a congresswoman.

“We’ve moved on from the discovery phase,” Scanlon said. “Now, this is the presentation to the American people.”

And next it goes to the House Judiciary Committee, where Scanlon and Dean could be part of the historic group that drafts articles of impeachment against the president.

In the room where it happens. 

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This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Impeachment: Pink Wave congresswomen play big role in Trump's fate