Democrats on Capitol Hill are increasingly calling for impeachment inquiries to begin against President Trump, citing the White House's denial of Congressional requests for documents and witness testimony. But Congressman Conor Lamb, who represents suburban Allegheny County and Beaver County, has been more cautious.
“So far, it is being resolved by the courts,” Lamb told WESA on Wednesday. “Just last week, two courts ruled in our favor with respect to subpoenas. As far as I can tell, that's how our system was designed to work. Sometimes the legislative branch and the executive branch disagree. So they go to the judicial branch for resolution.”
Pennsylvania Democrats Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean and Dwight Evans have already called for an impeachment inquiry. And some who support impeachment argue that letting courts weigh in on congressional requests would take too long. But the timeline did not concern Lamb.
“We shouldn't be doing this for any political purpose, so I'm not sure why the timeline is so important if we're not taking into account the 2020 elections,” Lamb said. “I think some people are trying to rush this through before then. But my point is, let's get to the right answer no matter how long it takes, and that involves following the system that our founders laid out for us.”
WESA's Lucy Perkins spoke with Lamb. Excerpts from their conversation are below:
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What do you make of the President’s decision to grant Attorney General William Barr sweeping powers to declassify documents related to the 2016 investigation of Russian meddling in the election?
I usually try hard to listen to both sides of these debates, so if there is a legitimate reason for this I have not heard it yet, and I'm very concerned. This has no precedent. It seems to be rooted in this idea that the president's spokeswoman keeps talking about that there's some kind of conspiracy afoot, and I can just say personally I've worked with the FBI very closely in my old job as a prosecutor. They’re some of the finest people I've ever known. We have members of Congress on both sides, including one Republican who used to serve in the CIA [Texas Rep. Will Hurd] who doesn't support this idea that they would lose control over declassifying their own information.
Some Democrats have proposed a sweeping 'Green New Deal' to address climate change. You've said voters in your district are pragmatic and are really focused on job growth. What’s a policy that you could support that doesn't alienate your constituents, but goes far enough to mitigate the effects of climate change?
There are several, but I'll give you one that I've worked a lot on which is nuclear energy. We have a power plant in my district out in Beaver Valley that employs 1,000 people full time, thousands more union tradesmen and women come in twice a year to do maintenance and operational upgrades.
Nuclear power is carbon-free. It powers 40 percent of our grid here in Pennsylvania, and it's what they call baseload power, meaning it works all the time in horrible storms when other sources of power are wiped out. It's still there running reliably. We don't have to worry about whether the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. So that's an example of something that I think serves a lot of important purposes. It looks at the fact that we already have people working great union jobs. They're Navy veterans, many of them, and I want those jobs to survive and I want them to be able to continue to contribute the clean power that they're already giving us.
What do you make of Alabama's law that bans nearly all abortions including in cases of rape or incest?
I think it's unconstitutional and it's going to be overturned in the courts.
Where do you stand on states proposing restrictions on abortion?
A woman's right to choose is a federal constitutional right. And it has been for 45 years. There's nothing new about that. States have taken some of their own measures over time which inevitably get challenged in courts, and then we leave it up to judges to decide whether there's been what we call an "undue burden" on a woman's right to choose.
I think for the most part, courts have judged that one pretty fairly and … I think most if not all of these new laws are going to fail, and what that tells you is that the people pushing them seem to be playing politics more than they are actually trying to take care of their citizens. These are women that need health care, and they need these services, and they're going to get these services whether we like it or not -- at least wealthy ones will. I, personally, don't believe that there's one constitution for wealthy people and one for everybody else. If it's a right, it's a right and everybody should have access to it.
Joe Biden kicked off his campaign in Pennsylvania, and got the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Were you tempted to endorse Biden as a presidential candidate right away?
I'd like to hear more about what all the candidates have to say and see where this things goes. It's very early, I mean this is May of 2019, and we won't be voting in our primary until almost a year from now. That being said, I did get to spend a fair amount of time with the Vice President, and I know that he understands the issues Western Pennsylvania faces, and that he feels very deeply about them. That makes me very confident in his leadership, and I'll be watching just like everybody else does.