The House just voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, with nearly unanimous support from Democrats.
Two Democratic representatives, Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson, a moderate freshman from New Jersey and a Minnesota Dem in the Trumpiest blue district in the country, respectively, defied their party voted against impeachment.
The same couldn’t be said for the other side of the aisle, where not a single Republicans defected, unless you count former Republican-turned-independent from Michigan, Rep. Justin Amash.
Still, Thursday’s vote offered little surprises or substantive change. Democrats did not need the vote to proceed with their impeachment inquiry, which is already moving at breakneck speed. Instead the vote simply formalized their efforts, and signaled a more public phase of the investigation.
Earlier this week, there were eight Dems who’d yet to voice support for the impeachment inquiry, and most of them were from red districts they flipped for the first time in 2018. Given that 9 out of 10 Democratic voters support the impeachment inquiry, most of the representatives on the fence eventually came around to support impeachment.
Van Drew and Peterson didn’t.
Here’s what you need to know about the two Dems who broke with their party on Thursday:
A Dentist from New Jersey
Van Drew’s a dentist who represents the good people of southern New Jersey, including Atlantic City. He’s got a long history of taking unconventional stances and flouting the party line. As a state representative in New Jersey, he opposed gay marriage in 2012 and voted against a bill to allow guns’ magazines to hold a maximum of 10 bullets. He’s not in favor of raising the minimum wage, either. He’s got an A rating from the NRA.
After serving since 2002 in the statehouse, Van Drew was elected to Congress for the first time in 2018. He hasn’t been getting along great with the national Democratic party leadership since then. He voted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership in the House earlier this year.
“There’s only 13 months, not even anymore, until an election,” Van Drew told reporters as he headed to the floor for the House vote on the impeachment rule Thursday. “I think, let’s let the people choose. Let them impeach if they want to impeach.”
Van Drew isn’t in the easiest district — Trump carried it by a four-point margin in 2016 after President Obama won it by eight points twice. But 11 other freshman Democrats hold Trumpier districts and still voted with their party on this measure.
Republicans struggled to recruit well-funded candidates in Van Drew’s district in 2018, but they appear to have their man for 2020. David Richter, the former CEO of a construction consulting firm, already has more than $400,000 in his campaign war chest, and will use it to try to unseat Van Drew next election.
“The bar for impeachment is very high,” Van Drew added. “There’s a reason that nobody has been successfully convicted of an impeachment in the history of the United States of America.”
A Moderate in Trump Country
If Van Drew is a contrarian, Peterson appears to be voting against impeachment to shore up his independent brand and hold a seat in a vulnerable blue district. And while Van Drew’s vote irritated House Democrats, Peterson’s move may cheer some on. It’s a sign he may be leaning towards running for reelection in 2020, something Democrats have been worried about.
Though Peterson’s held onto his seat since 1991, his district went for Trump back by 30 points back in 2016.
He’s a moderate who knows the rural district that he represents has moved hard away from his party in recent years. He voted with Trump half the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s count. He voted against bans on offshore drilling as well as a bill that would require background checks on all gun sales.
“If anyone thinks a partisan impeachment process would constrain President Trump, they are fooling themselves,” Peterson previously said in a statement.
In 2018, Trump voiced support for Peterson’s Republican challenger, Dave Hughes, by calling the incumbent “Pelosi Liberal Puppet Petterson [sic].”
Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.
Cover: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. is seen at her chair as House members vote on a resolution on impeachment procedure to move forward into the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.