Two Democratic congressmen broke with their party Thursday to vote against the House resolution formalizing the rules and procedure for the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a move that ushers in a new and public phase of the investigation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took the unusual step of presiding over the House during the vote. The resolution passed largely along party lines, 232-196.
Republican senators who were invited to lunch at the White House Thursday told reporters back on Capitol Hill that Trump pointed to the defections as proof of bipartisan opposition to the resolution.
"He mentioned the Democrats who voted no," Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey
Van Drew, a freshman member, has consistently opposed impeachment. "Let the people choose," he told NBC News Thursday ahead of his "no" vote. Afterward, he released a statement detailing why.
"Without bipartisan support I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate. However, now that the vote has taken place and we are moving forward I will be making a judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations," he said. "My hope is that we are still able to get some work done to help the American people like infrastructure, veteran’s benefits, environmental protection, immigration reform, reducing prescription drug cost, and strengthening Social Security.”
Unlike the handful of other Democrats who have been hesitant to endorse the House's inquiry, Van Drew has not shied away from addressing his stance.
“Everybody says, ‘Be on the right side of history’ — I think the right side of history is not to impeach," he told NBC News earlier this month. In that interview, he explained his view that impeachment is a divisive exercise — and a pointless one, given the unlikely prospect the Senate would vote to remove Trump — that will prevent Congress from addressing other issues.
He said he believes it's better to let the voters pass judgment on Trump on Election Day in November 2020, a point he reiterated in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City this week.
The district he won with 53 percent of the vote in 2018 — New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District, which covers the southern tip of the state — was also won by Trump in 2016. Van Drew told "Fox and Friends" in September that he has seen no evidence of an impeachable offense and excoriated Democrats for not focusing on legislating. Trump then thanked him in a tweet.
Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota
Peterson, described as a centrist, represents a rural district that Trump won in 2016 by 30 points — the most Trump-friendly district in the country that also elected a Democratic congressman.
After his "no" vote, Peterson said in a statement that the process "continues to be hopelessly partisan."
"I have some serious concerns with the way the closed-door depositions were run, and am skeptical that we will have a process that is open, transparent and fair. Without support from Senate Republicans, going down this path is a mistake," Peterson said. "Today's vote is both unnecessary, and widely misrepresented in the media and by Republicans as a vote on impeachment. I will not make a decision on impeachment until all the facts have been presented."
According to The Minnesota Star Tribune, he previously called the impeachment process "futile, unnecessarily divisive and a bad use of Congress' time."
Peterson — known for his work on agriculture issues — has long defied Republican efforts to oust him. He was first elected in 1990.
Peterson said in September that impeachment would further polarize the country.
“If anyone thinks a partisan impeachment process would constrain President Trump, they are fooling themselves. Without significant bipartisan support, impeachment proceedings will be a lengthy and divisive action with no resolution,” Peterson said in a statement.
"I believe it will be a failed process that will end up even further dividing our country and weakening our ability to act together on issues like passing USMCA (United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement), containing foreign threats and growing our economy," he added.