Virginia freshman Congresswomen, all centrist Democrats, set to play leading role in impeachment inquiry

By Davis Burroughs

October 1, 2019

Virginia Democratic Congresswomen Abigail Spanberger, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton are likely to play leading roles in the U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

In the search for leaders on the highly politicized process of investigating Trump for possible abuse of power, this trio is not the first group of lawmakers that come to mind. These freshman Democrats built their careers on winning over moderate voters, all relying on center-left platforms to knock out Republican incumbents during the 2018 elections.

“Reasonable and pragmatic — that’s kind of who I am,” Spanberger said in an interview with the Dogwood. But Trump’s recent actions with Ukraine were so egregious Spanberger and other moderate Democrats say they were forced to act.

In a press release, the former CIA agent said it was “shocking” that the president may have used his position to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival to benefit his reelection efforts.

Trump asked Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, in a July 25 phone call. A transcript of the call suggests Trump dangled foreign aid over the Ukranian presidents’ head as a bargaining chip for dirt on Biden. And a whistleblower complaint that came to light last week alleges Trump’s actions were part of a pattern of misbehavior, including attempts by the White House to cover up this conversation with the Ukrainian president as well as other self-serving interactions with world leaders.

“That he may have tried to use U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance funding as leverage in this effort represents a national security threat,” Spanberger said, “… the Administration is also blocking the Intelligence Community Inspector General from providing ‘urgent’ and ‘credible’ whistleblower information to Congress as required by law.”

“It is clear to me that [Trump] has betrayed the public trust and abandoned his obligations to the Constitution by elevating his own interests over the national interest,” Luria, a 20-year Navy veteran, said in a separate press release.

“This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand,” Luria, Spanberger and five other freshman Democrats wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post. “To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election,” they said.

For House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the signal of support from the moderate flank of Democrats may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Pelosi had resisted calls from the progressive wing of her party to impeach Trump, but she said Trump’s behavior with Ukraine could not be ignored.

Wexton voiced similar thoughts. On Twitter, she said she didn’t run for office to remove Trump. Given the latest allegations against him, however, she said she has a “constitutional responsibility” to begin an impeachment inquiry.

Wexton sits on the Financial Services Committee, one of six committees already investigating Trump that Pelosi has directed to proceed under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. 

Spanberger is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which is also taking on the issue.

Luria is not on any of the committees involved with impeachment; however, expect her to be another leading voice on the matter as the investigations continue.

Many Republicans have said that Democrats are committing political suicide by taking on impeachment, a divisive battle that’s historically yielded few results. Democrats, they say, should focus on legislating instead.

But these Virginia Congresswomen have already proven they can multitask. 

Just a few days after the inquiry officially opened and just one day after the whistleblower filed the complaint, Wexton introduced a bipartisan bill to give families more flexibility to save money on health insurance.

Spanberger has been busy, too. She co-sponsored a bill last week that would require digital political ads to be subject to the same rules and oversight as political ads that run on TV, in print, or on the radio. She also wrote to the U.S. trade representative urging him to renew a GPS agreement with India, chaired a Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing and participated in two House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings. 

Luria, for her part, introduced a bill last week that would ensure that donations to families of victims of the May 31 Virginia Beach mass shooting are tax-deductible. She also led a bipartisan letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging him to immediately bring up the House-passed SECURE Act for a vote on the Senate floor, and another letter to the House Armed Services Committee, urging them to authorize defense infrastructure funds. Finally, yesterday, she secured a pay raise for disabled veterans.

All the while, all three members of Congress have been heavily involved in the impeachment investigations.

As for political risk, public opinion has already started to tilt toward support for removing Trump from office. The number of Americans who believe Trump should be impeached rose 8 points last week to 45%. Fifty-two percent of voters favor initiating an impeachment inquiry. 

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