Chrissy Houlahan was elected in 2018, one of over 100 women to take seats in the U.S. Congress. She ran with no prior political office, drawing on her experiences as a veteran, a private sector worker and an educator. I had a chance to speak with this representative for our very own District 6.
The national news has been consumed with the presidential impeachment inquiry that is currently underway. As the House of Representatives determines the legality of President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, Houlahan and her fellow representatives are tested on their ability to balance national and local legislative work.
“I know that this is very difficult on a community, so I believe it is my responsibility, in addition to the role of oversight that Congress has, to continue working on the things that our communities value,” said Houlahan.
Houlahan estimated impeachment only takes up about 5% of her time working as a congresswoman, but that doesn’t mean she and her fellow congresswoman are not taking action about the topic. She coauthored a Washington Post article calling for an impeachment inquiry, but is not sold on executing the Articles of Impeachment.
“It’s concerning enough that we ought to have this impeachment inquiry . . . if those facts and information lead us to what are called articles of impeachment, then that is [where it] will lead us, but it’s not a given that’s what will happen,” said Houlahan.
As a third generation veteran with family members currently active, Houlahan is deeply invested in the well-being of our armed forces members. Within our district she estimates that there are around 40,000 veterans, all of which have different needs that require different services. These are the same people who service our community on the daily.
“When you think about these programs that help people that don’t have homes or help people who don’t have access to food regularly . . . many times those are veterans that we’re helping. It’s very important that our community understands that and it’s very important that I work hand and glove with our community members,” she said.
Her personal experiences with the Air Force has lead Houlahan to bring attention to women in the armed forces. Her separation from the Air Force occurred due to the lack of childcare support within her base.
“When I served, I had my first child. I had six weeks of leave for that birth and I was stationed up in Boston and I had waitlisted for the base childcare which was six months long . . . I wasn’t able to afford it [non-base child care],” said Houlahan.
Having this experience and knowing that some of these waitlists are now up to a year in length, Houlahan is committed to ensuring women’s potential in the armed forces is not hindered by their responsibilities as mothers. Simultaneously, she is working on a project aimed at supporting female veterans. A program in the Air Force provides women transitioning out of active duty with four hours of training with another woman veteran. The training covers services for female veterans provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs. Houlahan hopes to expand this program to other facets of the Armed Forces.
Within Congress, Houlahan continues to raise awareness for our women in uniform; However, she doesn’t do it alone.
“I’ve started a caucus, which is a group that meets and legislates about specific areas, that focuses on service women and women veterans. That caucus is about 51 members right now . . . they are men and women, veterans and non-veterans, they are Republican and Democrat, they are all working to try and take the idea that 20% of our military is now women . . . to make sure that we are providing good pathways and support for women who serve,” she said.
“I’ve started a caucus, which is a group that meets and legislates about specific areas, that focuses on service women and women veterans. That caucus is about 51 members right now…”
One of the recurring themes in Houlahan’s work with the Armed Forces is increasing access to the VA (Department of Veteran Affairs). She says that many veterans are not connected with the VA simply because they do not know what it has to offer. One of the side effects of this is the average of 17 veterans that are lost via suicide per day, something that could be prevented.
“Only about 60% of veterans who have suicidial ideation or who have successfully died by suicide actually have access to the VA, and there’s a lot of different reasons why that happens. With so many veterans that don’t have access or don’t use the VA who are in this category, we need to make sure that we are reaching out to them wherever they are,” said Houlahan.
What I had the opportunity to speak with Representative Houlahan about is only the beginning. She is involved with many different pieces of legislation on a continual basis, all working to protect our community.
“I would expect in the next week or so that there will be a very large bill that addresses prescription drug pricing. Last week we passed a really large bill about election security, which we should all be concerned about. We are working on the work of the people while this is also happening,” she said in reference to her activity with the impeachment inquiry.
It’s impossible to imagine the schedule of someone working so deeply in their community and their country. Representative Houlahan ensures that District 6 continues to grow and thrive alongside its companions. Her vision of a better future is one that has only just begun.
Caroline Helms is a first-year student majoring in English. CH923621@wcupa.edu.