Congress

How House members who are most vulnerable in 2020 voted on impeachment

Supporters say Ukraine actions crossed a line; opponents see dangerous partisan precedent

Top row from left: Democratic Reps. Jared Golden, Collin C. Peterson, Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose. Bottom row from left, Republican Reps. Chip Roy, Brian Fitzpatrick, John Katko and Fred Upton. (Photos by Tom Williams and Bill Clark)

It’s not clear how impeachment will impact the battle for the House in 2020, when every seat is on the ballot. But lawmakers in both parties will have to explain to voters about why they did, or did not, vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

That’s a particularly delicate task for members of Congress in competitive races. Lawmakers in swing districts break with their parties on occasion, but Wednesday’s impeachment vote fell almost entirely along party lines.

Sixty-three lawmakers are in competitive races, according to race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, not including nine lawmakers in swing districts who are not running for reelection.

Here’s how they voted on impeachment:

Democrats in Trump districts

All but two of the 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 voted to impeach the president, while one Trump-district Democrat voted for one article of impeachment but not the other. Democrats offered two articles of impeachment relating to allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival while withholding military aid for its battle with Russia: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson, whose district Trump carried by 31 points, and New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who plans to switch parties and become a Republican, were the only Democratic “no” votes on both articles.

[Their voters backed Trump. They voted to impeach him. Now what?][Meet the Democrats who broke with their party on impeachment]

Maine Rep. Jared Golden, whose district Trump carried by 11 points, was the only Democrat to split his impeachment vote, supporting the article relating to abuse of power, but voting against the article relating to obstruction of Congress.

Golden said in a Tuesday statement there was “a pattern of evidence that demonstrates the corrupt intent on the part of the president, his personal lawyer, and members of his administration to leverage the powers of the presidency to damage a political opponent and strengthen the president’s reelection prospects.”

But Golden could not support the second article because he said Democrats did not exhaust every option to compel witness testimony and acquire relevant documents — namely taking the administration to court.

The rest of the 31 Democrats in Trump districts backed impeachment. Not all of them are vulnerable, but Republicans believe their path to the majority runs through many of these districts. A handful of Democrats who are the most vulnerable because Trump won their districts by double digits voted in favor of impeachment, including New York Reps. Anthony Brindisi and Max Rose, South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham, Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn, and New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

“Party and politics will never come before the country I bled to protect — and would unquestionably do so again,” said Rose, an Army veteran whose district Trump carried by 10 points. “Coercing a foreign government into targeting American citizens is not just another example of scorched earth politics, it serves as an invitation to the enemies of the United States to come after any citizen.”

Others argued that failing to impeach the president would set a dangerous precedent for future administrations, even though they conceded the vote could cost them their seats in Congress.

“I know some people will be angry at my decision, but I was elected to do what is right, not politically safe,” Brindisi, whose district Trump carried by 15 points, wrote in an op-ed column. Brindisi also called Trump’s actions unconstitutional, while Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright and Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran said Trump’s actions amounted to bribery. Democrats ultimately opted not to include bribery in the articles of impeachment.

Republicans in Clinton districts

All three of the remaining House Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 voted not to impeach, stressing that the articles drafted by Democrats did not accuse Trump of committing a crime.

One of them, Texas Rep. Will Hurd, is not running for reelection. But Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and New York Rep. John Katko are both top Democratic targets in 2020. Clinton carried Fitzpatrick’s 1st District in the Philadelphia suburbs by 2 percentage points while Clinton won Katko’s Upstate New York 24th District by 4 points.

Katko, a former federal prosecutor, said in a statement last week that Trump’s actions were “wrong and inappropriate” but not impeachable.

“Never in the history of our country have we impeached a president without articulating specific crimes,” Katko said. “I firmly believe doing so now would set a dangerous precedent.”

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, criticized the nature of the impeachment investigation, accusing House Democrats of “pursuing an entirely partisan path with an artificial timeline and a predetermined outcome.”

Freshman Democrats in competitive races

Some, including Reps. Katie Porter and Harley Rouda of California, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, supported an impeachment inquiry before the allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine surfaced. Rouda’s condemnation of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine went even further, calling them treasonous.

The remaining Democrats in competitive races voiced support for an impeachment inquiry following the Ukraine allegations, and their reasons for supporting impeachment were similar to their colleagues from Trump districts: That Trump abused his power and put national security at risk, and failing to impeach would allow for abuse by future administrations.

Republicans in competitive races

All of the 20 Republicans in competitive races voted not to impeach the president.

A handful expressed concerns with Trump’s actions. Nebraska’s Don Bacon, who told the Norfolk Daily News last week that his vote would be a political risk either way in his swing district, said the president’s actions were “not wise but did not rise to the level of impeachable conduct.”

Fred Upton, of Michigan, went a step further. “The President’s behavior was wrongheaded, inappropriate, and ill-advised,” he told MLive Media Group. “But was it impeachable? My answer is no.”

Chip Roy, of Texas, a former prosecutor and a member of the House Oversight Committee, was more circumspect. “I am sympathetic to those who reasonably believe that the call was not ‘perfect,’” he wrote in a column for National Review, referencing Trump’s description of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that prompted the whistleblower complaint. “But I also do not see evidence sufficient to impeach a president of the United States.”

Others criticized the impeachment hearings as rushed and unorthodox.

Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington complained about “hearsay testimony from secondhand sources” in the regional Daily Chronicle newspaper. Dan Bishop of North Carolina called the inquiry a “railroad” job on the Christian Broadcasting Network. And Steve Chabot of Ohio said in his opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee hearing that House Democrats had “taken a blowtorch to House Rules.”

Lindsey McPherson and Simone Pathé contributed to this report.

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