Less than 24 hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey declared his support for the investigation.
“In my view, and I think it’s the view of a lot of Americans now, this is not just a case of — but a textbook case — abuse of power,” Casey said in an interview with WESA. “This abuse of power is directly connected, frankly, with a pattern of abuse that you can see spelled out in the Mueller report.”
But while some Senate Republicans have been critical of the investigation and whistleblower report, which alleges that President Trump solicited help from a foreign country’s ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Casey said he was heartened by their overall initial response.
“It's very encouraging that a number of senators condemned the behavior, in a sense, of what happened on that call either directly or implicitly,” he said. “It's also very encouraging that no Republican senator objected to the release of the whistleblower report.”
The whistleblower was not a witness to the call in which President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. But a rough transcript the White House released aligns with the details described in the report. The document also alleges that White House lawyers directed White House officials to restrict access to the transcript of the call.
“At least what we're hearing from a number of Republican senators is, ‘We have to take a closer look at this issue,’” Casey said. “They haven't just dismissed it at all.”
Casey said it was encouraging that Senate Republicans seem to be taking the issue seriously right now, before the matter is even before the Senate.
“They said, ‘Whoa, we got to look at this,’” Casey said. “Republican senators being open to listening to and reviewing more evidence — that’s encouraging.”
Senate Inaction On Gun Control Is ‘Inexcusable’
In February, the House passed legislation that would require a background check for every firearm purchased. But the Senate has yet to take up the bill, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying gun control would be on the agenda following a summer of mass shootings.
“[That legislation] has been sitting in the United States Senate for more than 200 days,” Casey said, and had no timeline for action. “That is just inexcusable.”
But while Casey wanted McConnell to take up background check measures, he did not support gun-control proposals like a government buy back of military-style assault rifles, as proposed by presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who made guns a central part of his message on a recent Pittsburgh campaign stop.
“I don't know a United States Senator who supports that,” Casey said. “But let's talk about what can be done and should be done. We should work on a ban on military-style weapons going forward. Yes, there will be lots of them left but at least let's stop the flow.”
To 2020 Candidates: ‘We Don’t Have Time For Interesting Policy Debates’
Casey, a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act, also pushed back on Democratic presidential candidates who have proposed health-care programs like Medicare For All.
“Elections are about contrasts,” Casey said. “We don't have time for interesting policy debates. We do not have time, because right now Republicans are destroying our health care system. They support a lawsuit that will wipe out the Affordable Care Act.”
Casey, who when discussing health care periodically struck the table for emphasis, said that candidates who want to improve health care have to win the 2020 election first, “and you’re not going to win the election by having a policy debate on a debate stage.”
“You’ve got to win the election by telling people what Republican politicians in Washington are doing to health care right now, and then we can have great ideas after that about how to get universal coverage.”
Casey endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden this spring, who has touted the Affordable Care Act while candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren have proposed more progressive policies.
But Casey said that while he still thinks Biden is the best candidate for the presidency, there are other candidates — he wouldn’t name them — who he thinks could win Pennsylvania, a key state to any electoral win.
“I think there are several candidates running right now for the Democratic nomination who can also win Pennsylvania,” he said. “I wasn’t sure about that a couple months ago. I’m more sure of that now.”