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Rep. Reschenthaler On Whitaker Hearing, Background Checks, Collaborating In Washington

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Representative Guy Reschenthaler has only been in Congress for a couple months, representing a swath of rural southwestern Pennsylvania. But he's already criticized a bill to expand background checks for firearm purchases, and questioned former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker on Capitol Hill.

During the House Judiciary hearing, Whitaker said he had never been pressured by President Trump to influence Trump-related probes. But the New York Times reported this week that Trump asked Whitaker to put an ally in charge of one of the investigations into the President. Now Democrats are considering perjury charges.

On Former Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s Testimony:

I’m aware of the [New York Times] article, I’ve not read the article yet today. But I can tell you that if that is the course we’re going to take, we need to look at it. I found Whitaker to be credible when he was testifying, so I don’t want to speculate right now. We’re talking about one article that came out that contradicts Whitaker, I don’t want to jump to speculation and jump the gun, I want to see what comes out from this.

On Gun Control Legislation:

The entire bill – HR 8 – I was very disappointed in. I felt like it was political showmanship, and I felt like nothing in that bill would actually stop mass violence. I’m for background checks, we have them in Pennsylvania, I support them. There’s aspects of that bill, however, that I don’t support. That bill would prevent somebody on a hunting trip from borrowing somebody else’s rifle on the hunting trip. It was incredibly too restrictive, and none of it really went to the root cause of the problem. 

There are a lot of root causes [of gun violence], but the biggest root cause is mental health, and we need to focus on that. Also, we need to have more coordination between law enforcement agencies so when there are signals that there’s going to be a school shooting, that school administrators and local law enforcement agencies can cooperate and stop that.

On Upcoming Legislative Priorities:

Right now, I'm working on two pieces of legislation. Neither of them have been introduced but I’m working on that now. One would encourage local law enforcement to work more closely, so that we could do something about the opioid epidemic, and would open up channels of communication for local law enforcement and federal law enforcement.

Then there's another piece of legislation I'm working on that would work to ban puppy mills, nationally. This is not only important for animal welfare ... [T]he same demographic of criminal that would abuse a child or somebody in their domestic household would also abuse typically a pet right or an animal. I'm in the process of drafting both those bills I have to introduce them at some point in the next few months.

On Collaboration In Washington:

I was told last week by somebody very experienced that you live in your committees. And the longer I’m in Congress, the more I’m realizing that you do really live in your committees. So [Ranking Member] Doug Collins in Judiciary has been incredibly helpful, I can see myself working with him closely.

There’s a lot of Democrats across the aisle. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) was just texting me last night with some ideas that he had. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and I have been talking about some other legislation.

In southwestern Pennsylvania I’m very lucky because we have Rep. Mike Doyle, we have Rep. Conor Lamb, we have Rep. Mike Kelly. The four of us look regionally, we have a lot of shared regionally assets. For example the Pittsburgh airport services all of our districts.  

I really like the idea that I can go back and have somebody that’s experienced, like Mike Kelly and also Congressman Doyle, Congressman Lamb on the other side to collaborate with. In fact, one of the times I was lost on the first or second day [in Congress], it was Mike Doyle who pointed me in the right direction, Mike came to the rescue.