As Congress’ impeachment process has advanced, there’s been considerable attention focused on a specific group of lawmakers: the 31 House Democrats who represent districts that Donald Trump won in 2016. The assumption has been that if a sizable number of Democratic lawmakers were going to break ranks and oppose presidential impeachment, the members would likely come from this contingent.
But as members fall off the fence and make their intentions known, it’s clear that nearly all of these Trump-district Dems will, in fact, vote to impeach the president – despite the risks, despite the pressure campaigns.
But what about the mirror-image members on the other side? What should we expect from the House Republicans who represent districts Hillary Clinton won? It’s an exceedingly small faction, made up of two individuals: Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick and New York’s John Katko.
Fitzpatrick, in particular, has taken several steps to distance himself from his party’s far-right flank. When the House voted last week, for example, on the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act” (H.R. 3), only two GOP lawmakers voted for it, and the Pennsylvanian was one of them. A week earlier, when the House passed the “Voting Rights Advancement Act” (H.R. 4), literally only one Republican sided with the majority, and it was Fitzpatrick.
On impeachment, however, he’s sticking with his party. The Washington Post reported:
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick refuses to defend President Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, but the Pennsylvania Republican is not going to vote to impeach him.
A past critic of the president who has sought to build a reputation on Capitol Hill as a politician untethered to party, Fitzpatrick is also a former FBI agent who spent time in Ukraine advancing anti-corruption efforts. He serves as co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. […]
[But] ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Fitzpatrick spelled out his opposition to impeachment in a lengthy statement in which he called it “a constitutional nuclear option of last resort,” criticized the House probe as rushed and argued that it was “poisoned from the start” when Democratic leaders tapped the Intelligence Committee rather than law enforcement to investigate.
Fitzpatrick conceded yesterday that Trump “showed poor judgement,” but that was as far as the GOP congressman was prepared to go.
His complaints about the House process are, to be sure, underwhelming. Fitzpatrick insisted, for example, that his chamber treated “a serious allegation” in a “fundamentally unserious manner.”
That’s a tough assertion to defend. House Republicans may have made every effort to turn the proceedings into a circus, but by and large, the House Democratic majority took a by-the-book approach, moving methodically from hearing to hearing, witness to witness, report to report.
But even putting all of that aside, Fitzpatrick’s willingness to publicly acknowledge Trump’s “poor judgment” puts him in a very small category: Republicans who are still able to concede that their party’s president did something wrong.
For all the talk about the “partisan” process, what does it say about the contemporary GOP that the number of House Republicans who agree that Trump acted inappropriately can be counted on one hand?