MIDDLETOWN – In an effort to get to know her constituents over the mountain better, U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, swung through Frederick County on Thursday, visiting Thermo Fisher Scientific and Sherando High School.
After serving as a state senator, Wexton leaped to the U.S. House of Representatives last year when she defeated U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean.
Wexton's brief tenure in the House has been punctuated by a flurry of events as Democrats swept into the majority for the first time since 2008.
After a brief tour of the Thermo Fisher plant, Wexton stood in the cafeteria answering questions from workers sitting on folding chairs, some still wearing their safety goggles on top of their heads.
The nation’s capital, Wexton said, isn’t anything like Richmond, where part-time legislators are on tight deadlines to get their work done.
“As a result, it was a much more functional environment than the United States Congress,” she said. “In the United States Congress, it’s a much more partisan environment.”
Despite the deep partisanship, Wexton praised all of the Virginians in Congress and their commitment to their monthly lunches where Democrats and Republicans set party differences aside to eat lunch together.
Those lunches, Wexton said, focus on talking about issues Virginians are concerned about such as workforce development to address the need for jobs despite record-low unemployment figures; attracting businesses to the commonwealth; the military bases in Norfolk and transportation.
“We are able to get a lot more done than our colleagues in other states are,” she said.
Although the monthly lunches help build camaraderie, basic partisan issues continue to come up when she talks with the voters she represents. While “kitchen table” issues never go out of style — voters are always concerned about new jobs and affordable education — this year has brought the threat of impeachment.
When House Democrats learned that President Donald Trump placed a phone call to the president of Ukraine in July potentially holding back military aid approved by Congress as a politically motivated bargaining chip, they moved to open an impeachment inquiry. Trump was hoping to prod the Ukrainian leader to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son, Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden had been a member of the board of directors of a Ukrainian firm that had been the subject of an earlier corruption investigation had gone dormant. Neither Hunter Biden nor Joe Biden had been the subject of the investigation nor has any evidence been produced that either broke any laws in the case.
“The allegations that are out there and the facts we already have before us are pretty alarming,” Wexton said.
Last week, the White House sent a letter to Congress telling them it would not cooperate with the inquiry because there has been no floor vote to open the inquiry.
Wexton said there is no requirement to hold a vote before Congress opens an inquiry and the White House hasn’t given any kind of promise it would cooperate even if a vote passed.
“Basically, all they’ve said is that ‘we’re not going to give you anything, so too bad,’” she said. “They also don’t have an option to decide whether to participate in this process or not.”