At the same time, there are signs that Trump’s influence is waning after the deadly riot on Capitol Hill. And in the absence of a standard-bearer in the post-Trump era, the impeachment vote suggested the emergence of a small opening for alternative positioning.
Here are four lessons learned about the GOP from Republicans who voted to impeach the president:
There are four House Republicans representing deep red districts who had little to gain politically from their decision to impeach and appear to have voted out of deep unease at the events of January 6.
But of all the Republicans in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Perhaps risked more than anyone else by countering her party majority and casting a perilous vote from a district in general that gave to Trump 70% of his vote.
On news of his planned vote, Representative Jim Jordan, who received Trump’s Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month, called for Cheney’s removal from his role as Speaker of the House Republican Conference . It’s hard to imagine the praise Cheney received from House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi – “Good for her for honoring her oath of office,” Pelosi said – well done at her conference or at home. she.
Ultimately, more Republicans might choose to rebuke Cheney than to impeach Trump.
But Cheney, the daughter of a former vice president who also served in the House, seemed to have had enough with the president, releasing a dazzling statement that put Trump sole blame for the events of January 6.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States,” she wrote, in a statement that was extracted by other members present.
She framed his position as “a vote of conscience”.
For at least some of the Republicans who joined Cheney, the math may have been exactly that. While Representatives David Valadao of California and John Katko of New York represent the districts that chose Joe Biden, the other eight representatives who voted for impeachment will now have to respond to pro-Trump ridings at home.
Three of them, Reps Tom Rice (RS.C.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) And Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), represent the districts Trump won in double digits. None of the trio have been particularly strong dissidents of the president in the past – in fact, Rice voted to oppose certification of Biden’s election last week.
The brand’s stewards
In 2019, not a single member of the Republican House supported Trump’s impeachment. A little over a year later, however, the vote exposed an effort by managers of a more traditional form of conservatism – that of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush – to wrest the party away from Trump.
Of the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment, at least four could be defined as shepherds of the old GOP brand. Republican Adam Kinzinger, a 42-year-old Republican with a potential future in Illinois state-wide politics, has openly criticized Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud, despite the potential ramifications in a district who preferred Trump to Biden by 16 percentage points.
Meanwhile, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), A military veteran who replaced Trump critic-turned-libertarian Justin Amash, campaigned on the desire to bring political discourse back to a more dignified era. In a statement announcing his impeachment vote, he echoed this language.
“It weighs on me that Gerald Ford held this seat for 25 years before he was elevated to the presidency,” he said. “President Ford’s pardon to Richard Nixon was a necessary step in moving the nation past the wounds of Watergate, but it followed Nixon’s resignation and acceptance of his responsibilities. Since last week, the President has accepted no responsibility for the violence his rhetoric and actions have inspired. “
Until the election of GOP Representative Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) Was the last Republican representing a district touching the Pacific Coast. It’s a role she took seriously.
“I am a Republican voter,” she said in a statement. “I believe in our Constitution, in individual freedom, in free markets, in charity, in life, in justice, in peace and in this exceptional country. I see that my own party will be better served when those of us choose the truth. “
Trump barely cleared 50% in his district in November. But Herrera Beutler’s vote and that of his Washington colleague Newhouse may have reflected to some extent the unique calculation of the state’s two main primary policies, which may be more protective for a sitting Republican president than ‘a simple party primary.
Newhouse, co-chair of Trump’s 2020 Washington campaign, comes from a solidly Republican neighborhood, where Trump garnered nearly 58% of the vote. But he has been criticized in the state for joining the ill-fated Texas lawsuit to overturn the election results. And like all of the other pro-impeachment Republicans except Rice, Newhouse did not object to the certification of the electoral college votes.
In the House on Wednesday, Newhouse said there was “no excuse” for Trump’s actions amid the riot on Capitol Hill. “Last week there was an inside threat at the Capitol Gate, and he did nothing to stop it.
Republicans in competitive neighborhoods
About half of the Republicans supporting impeachment have solid political reasons: Katko, Herrera Beutler, Valadao, Upton and Meijer.
The most vulnerable are Katko and Valadao, who both hold districts that voted for President Obama in 2012, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and then Joe Biden in 2020. Katko, in particular, owes its survival to Democratic recruiting failures as much as ‘to its own policy. prowess. He has twice succeeded in positioning himself as a centrist alternative to a progressive challenger who supports Medicare-for-all.
Only Katko, Meijer and Valadao won with less than 55% of the vote last November.
But Herrera Beutler and Upton has also seen its neighborhoods become more competitive since 2016. All of them have large suburban components and were targeted by Democrats in 2018 and 2020.
Almost all of those members will be affected by the 2021 redistribution. Michigan and California will likely lose one seat each, and the process is in the hands of a non-partisan committee that may not prioritize the protection of incumbents. New York is on the verge of losing two seats in Congress and the Democrats are in charge of the redistribution, leaving Katko in great jeopardy.
It is difficult to discern the political risk associated with their votes when they run in entirely new districts.
Freshmen fear – or revere – Trump
Most of the dozens of Republican members who reversed Democrats’ seats in 2020 – and the horde of headquarters members who took office during Trump’s first term were notably absent from the impeachment team.
Only one freshman, Meijer, voted for impeachment.
Few of the members elected since 2016 into conservatively-oriented seats have supported impeachment – this is a group that knows all too well about Trump’s grassroots grip. In fact, many have won the primaries posing as Trump’s henchmen, such as Reps Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), his former White House doctor; Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Who has built a vast social network by following MAGA on the Internet; and Barry Moore (R-Ala.), who claims to be the country’s first elected official to endorse Trump.
They have made it clear that they support the president – no matter what.
“Since 2016, hashtags have been circulating in our country that say, ‘Not our president. Resist. Resist, ”Moore said Wednesday in what he described as his first floor speech. “Members across the way have said things in public to have this president’s supporters attacked and demeaned.”
In the swing district headquarters, devotion to Trump is more measured. Republicans have worked hard to recruit a diverse variety of candidates who could help pull the party out of the Trump era and rebuild its once-legendary brand in the suburbs. These newcomers were single mothers, first generation Americans, state lawmakers who espoused GOP values without Trump’s abrasive. Your.
Rising stars like Reps Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Nancy Mace (RS.C.) quickly signed a letter urging their colleagues not to oppose voter credentials. But they refused to support the impeachment, calling it a source of division.
And a group of moderates, led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Backed a resolution to censor Trump. Impeachment, Fitzpatrick said in a statement, would force “a lengthy and contentious Senate trial” that “undermines” Biden’s “ability to govern effectively.” Join him were GOP battlefield reps. Young Kim (R-California), Meijer, Upton and Reps Tom Reed (RN.Y.) and John Curtis (R-Utah).
The most notable signatory was Kim, a freshman who is one of the first Korean Americans to come to Congress. She won a district that Trump lost by a whopping 10 point margin.
“I think censoring the president is a better option,” Kim said in a statement. “It would be a strong rebuke of his actions and rhetoric and unite our country and our chamber, rather than dividing them.”