In the nine months since she's been in office, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon has been a busy woman.

In an interview with the Daily Times staff Friday, Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore, covered a gamut of issues she's been pushing in the Capitol, from guns, impeachment and immigration to crucial regional issues such as Boeing's Chinook, refineries and constituent services.

Scanlon was one of four Pennsylvania women swept into the House in a blue wave at the polls in November, in the process becoming the first woman ever to represent the county in Washington. Before November, the Pennsylvania delegation had zero women. Scanlon was joined in D.C. by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6 of Chester County; Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4 of Abington; and Rep. Susan Wild, D-7 of Allentown. 

Scanlon beat out nearly a dozen Democrats seeking the right to run for the old 7th District seat vacated by Rep. Pat Meehan. She won the special election for the 7th District seat, and also the race for the newly drawn 5th District, which came about after a successful lawsuit argued the old district boundaries were unconstitutional.

Meehan resigned from his House post after a scandal involving the use using taxpayer dollars to pay a former staffer whom had accused him of sexual harassment. First she won the wild Democratic scramble for the nomination, then she beat Republican Pearl Kim in both the special and regular elections. The new 5th District, which puts all of Delaware County into one Congressional district, along with a sliver of Montgomery County and a piece of South and Southwest Philadelphia, was created by the state Supreme Court as a result of a lawsuit filed by Democrats claiming the old districts, including the 7th, were a classic example of gerrymandering. 

The court agreed with that assessment and, after the General Assembly was unable to redraw the lines, drew up a map of its own.

Last week alone, Scanlon hosted a town hall meeting following a joint press conference on gun violence following the shooting of six Philadelphia police officers, picked up debris at the Philadelphia International Airport and moved the case of presidential impeachment forward.

"Since getting sworn in in November, there are different issues that keep rising to the top and you just have to deal with them as they come up," the freshman Democrat said. "You have to deal with whatever comes up affecting the constituents."

Much attention was given to gun control regionally following the events in Philadelphia.

"The gun situation is a huge problem for the country," Scanlon said. "There is no one solution that is going to solve it. It's going to take time but there are a lot of different solutions."

In a related measure, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced his call to bring the House Judiciary Committee back into session Sept. 4 to address gun violence prevention. Scanlon is vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, a post that has given her a national profile due to highly publicized hearings surrounding the findings of the Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Some of the legislation they want to consider include H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act banning high-capacity ammunition magazines similar to those used in the Dayton, Ohio shooting; H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019 to prevent those deemed a risk to themselves or others from accessing firearms; H.R. 2708 the Disarm Hate Act prohibiting those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing firearms; and H.R. 1122, the Enhanced Background Checks Act to close the Charleston, S.C. loophole. 

In addition, the committee plans to hold a hearing on Sept. 25 to discuss ways to address the dangers posed by assault weapons.

Scanlon pointed to other measures that have been passed by the House - H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and H.R. 2740 that allows for an additional $50 million for the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence in schools. All of this legislation remains stalled in the U.S. Senate.

"Well, it sits in front of (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., but he's going to have to own that," she said. "He's either going to have to bring the bills in for a vote or he's going to have to say why not and if they don't pass the Senate, then, those people are going to have to answer to it.

"It doesn't mean that everybody else has to stop doing their jobs," she said.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Scanlon has also been front and center of the Mueller hearings. And, she added that a majority of the communications she receives from constituents is in favor of pushing forward with the investigation.

"Actually, we probably get 95 percent 'Impeach him now,' because it's sort of an existential threat to everything else," she said of President Donald Trump. "There has been a strategy to what the Judiciary has been doing. It's been moving forward. There's an investigation that has to move forward to make sure that you have the evidence and that there's a case to be built."

Scanlon said the committee has gone to court to question former White House counsel Don McGahn and they subpoenaed Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski Thursday.

"Volume One was Russian interference," she said. "Volume Two was obstruction of justice and Volume Three is being played out now and that's cover-up or further obstruction."

The representative said part of the logistics has been about accommodating the co-equal branches of government.

"It's really hard when the issue is that the president's not playing by the rules and you can't just throw out the rules to bring that accountability," she said.

Last weekend, Scanlon was among a Congressional contingent headed by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to visit Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and McAllen, Texas.

On her trip, Scanlon learned that 50 percent of the children in Guatemala suffer from stunting, where chronic malnutrition leads to permanent physical and mental stunts in that they look like they are 7 or 8 years old but, are actually 12 or 13 years old.

"Eight-year-old boys are being recruited to be in gangs and in order to be in the gang, you have to have five murders, which usually happens by the time you are 12," she said. "We went to a shelter where over a hundred girls, 12 and under, had had babies that year."

Scanlon said the conditions could be linked to ramp corruption suppressing economies, soul-destroying violence and drought.

She added that efforts being directed at preventing migration and stopping drug trafficking have been undercut by the decision to withdraw aid from these countries, where $400 to $600 a year per person could prevent mass movement by making sure kids stay in after-school programs instead of joining gangs, or funding drug enforcement training for police officers.

"We want to stop people from having to come to our country, we want to stop drugs (but) the funding to do that has been withdrawn in favor of just trying to build barriers at the wall," she said, adding that her discussions with Customs and Border Patrol personnel there indicated they need technology and staff more than a wall.

She said the situation has been manipulated to appear a certain way.

“It wasn’t a national emergency, it was a humanitarian crisis," Scanlon said, "and they exacerbated the humanitarian crisis to try to get more money for a wall.”

In an issue closer to home, she said the battle for a critical program to upgrade Boeing's Chinook helicopter fleet may be an annual brawl as the Senate's appropriations language differs from the House, requiring the issue to go to conference. Scanlon led the charged in securing the program in the House; now it must be haggled out with the Senate.

The future of the Ridley-built helicopter was jeopardized earlier this year when Army Under-Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy announced a decision to delay Block II upgrades in favor of pursuing modernization efforts like air defense and electronic warfare.

"They're saying they want to go in a different direction but they haven't decided that direction yet," she said. "It doesn't exist and it may not for a decade. In the meantime, the cost of doing repairs on the Chinook is going to exceed the cost of building some new ones. It actually winds up being fiscally appropriate."

"We're going to have to keep fighting that one," Scanlon said.

Regarding the June Philadelphia Energy Solutions explosion and company's decision to lay off all the workers, the representative said investigators have not yet been allowed into the property to determine what occurred to cause the fireball - almost two months after the incident.

"Whoever was on the switch that night was absolutely awake at the switch and saved us all from disaster," she said, noting that the facility used hydrogen fluoride, a dangerous chemical that has the capacity to spark a widespread catastrophe with a large number of fatalities.

About the layoffs, she said, "It's obviously a huge workforce concern. Those are good jobs and people have mortgages and kids in college and everything else based on that, but it's a very old refinery."

Scanlon also pointed out the location of her new district office was not an accident. It's located at 927 E. Baltimore Ave. in East Lansdowne, in the center of the district.

"We only have one office because it's pricey to have multiple offices and the budget for that isn't too big," she said. "I'd rather have people who can provide the services than more structures."

In addition, she said she wanted the office to be accessible by public transportation.

Scanlon highlighted her "Work a Day with Mary Gay" initiative, where, for one day, she takes various jobs such as a sheet metal worker apprentice or a grocery store employee. This week, she was at the Philadelphia International Airport.

"I was picking up FOD, foreign object debris, on the runways in a yellow vest," she said. "I found a gas cap, that was a little concerning. 'Did this come off a flight?'"

The representative said she had no preconceptions about what the job of a member of Congress would entail.

"I really didn't think that much about what it would be," she said. "I was just really interested in the issues and wanting to work on them."

Yet, Scanlon said she believes in term limits.

"I've had another career," she said. Scanlon is an attorney who worked with the Education Law Center of Philadelphia, helping implement special education laws, and also headed pro bono work for the Ballard Spahr law firm in Philadelphia, as well as serving as the former president of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board. "This isn't a career move for me. I'm gonna go in there and try to make a difference but I'm not looking to do this forever."

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