Smucker, Perry display party's fractured response to impeachment inquiry

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Vice President Mike Pence rallies with candidates Scott Perry, left, and Lloyd Smucker during Pence's stop at Lancaster Airport in Lititz Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker and Scott Perry offered differing messages following the announcement of an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, which may be indicative of a wider intraparty divide, according to political analysts.

The Republicans representing York County had different takes on Tuesday evening after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the official opening of an impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower complaint against the president that focused on a controversial phone call with the Ukrainian president.

"I don't think Republicans are as unified as they were," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. "The fact is they're going to react based to some degree on how it's gong to effect their own election. Why wouldn't they?"

More:Smucker, Perry blast Dems' impeachment probe

Smucker, of Lancaster, on Tuesday said it was too early to judge Trump's dealings with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked that country to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Perry, on the other hand, echoed more extreme talking points and said Pelosi had succumbed to the party's progressive wing's  socialist demands and obsession with ousting the president.

Perry's buffed up rhetoric is likely due to fear of losing in the district that includes York City and Harrisburg, a city that has grown more liberal over the years and in 2018 favored Perry's challenger, political newcomer George Scott, Madonna said. 

Paired with his well-known Democratic challenger state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Perry's likely tying the Democrats to socialism to rally his pro-Trump base while potentially winning over moderate or conservative-leaning Democratic voters who want to distance themselves from such a label, Madonna said.

Smucker, on the other hand, is bolstered by  Republican-dominated Lancaster County in the 11th District and handily won against Democrat Jess King in 2018. And no Democrat has yet announced a challenge to Smucker. 

Those facts mean he is less bound to hardline talking points, Madonna said. 

Messaging variations among House Republicans have been unusually rampant since Pelosi's announcement. One example is Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, a moderate who clashed with the Tea Party and has in the past called Trump unfit for office.

"To date, I have seen nothing that warrants impeachment, and there have certainly been ample opportunities to analyze their many accusations during their countless investigations," Simpson wrote Tuesday on Twitter. "However, they have their constitutional right to proceed in their relentless endeavor."

One common thread among Republicans that remains, Madonna said, is that the party still backs the president and asserts the country needed to carefully analyze transcripts of the Trump-Ukraine call, some of which were released Wednesday.

But even that continuity might change if mounting evidence of wrongdoing threatens to sway moderate Republican voters in the state and country, said Vinny Cannizzaro, director of the The Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy.

"I think there are Republicans who may not be elected officials but just general voters who voted for Trump and are having second thoughts now," Cannizzaro said, adding that mounting pressure from GOP constituents could corner Trump's allies in the House and make it politically practical to keep their votes and support impeachment.

On Wednesday, the White House released a transcript summary rather than the transcript in its entirety that still confirmed Trump had urged the Ukranian president to probe the Bidens.

Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence, also released the whistleblower report to Congress on Wednesday night.

The U.S. Senators representing Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, mostly held off on commenting until the transcripts were released and news of the whistleblower report flooded media outlets.

Senate Republicans, too, have fractured over Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president and what should be done about it, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

While Casey joined other Democrats in calling for impeachment, Toomey maintained that Trump's phone call with the Ukranian president was "inappropriate" but not deserving of impeachment.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.