Freshman Year, Part 2: More women, private sector experience highlight Pa.'s class
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Author's Note: Part one of "Freshman Year" featured Pennsylvania U.S. Reps. Fred Keller and Guy Reschenthaler, and can be found here.
Pennsylvania went four years without a woman representing any of its eighteen Congressional Districts. That was until January, when four women from the Keystone State were elected to Congress.
“Our relationship, the four of us, is really powerful,” said U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D), whose district covers Chester and Bucks counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Houlahan joins suburban Philadelphia neighbors and fellow freshmen Madeleine dean, Susan Wild and Mary Gay Scanlon in Congress. Wild and Scanlon joined the delegation in late 2018 after a pair of lawmakers resigned, but are considered freshmen in the 116thCongress.
Houlahan made her mark in Washington early. A former U.S. Air Force officer, she founded the first-ever Servicewomen’s and Women’s Veterans Caucus in May. But on the day-to-day, she finds her business background guiding her political decision-making. But she’s finding the U.S. House is a little different than the private sector.
“I think a good analogy is that this is 435 independent contractors,” Houlahan told us during an interview last month. “The organization at large, the 435 of us who are here, are not necessarily marching to the same beat of the drum and have different agendas and perspectives.”
Meanwhile, some of the new men in the delegation are also using their private sector experience in the nation’s capital.
On the other side of the aisle – and the state – U.S. Rep. John Joyce brings a different perspective to Washington. He’s a dermatologist from the Altoona, Pa. area. The Republican is a political newcomer who is learning politics is much different than his practice.
“As opposed to a one-on-one situation where you have 15 or 20 minutes to sit down and talk to a patient, you have to be able to work with your colleagues on the same side as you are and across the aisle,” Joyce told us during an interview last month.
Joyce serves on the House Homeland Security Committee among other committee assignments. That work led him on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this year. He calls meetings with Border Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration “defining,” opening his eyes to the drug problem that he says is finding its way back home.
“They specifically talked the methamphetamine and the cartel that brings it in there and how it ends up in south-central Pennsylvania in my district,” Joyce said. “It made me want to work harder to secure our border.”
Although they each have different views, all new members have one thing in common: they are a part of the largest freshman class in nearly 50 years.