Illinois House splits down party lines on impeachment

Andrew Myers, Reporter

As President Donald Trump’s impeachment begins its next phase in the Senate, the votes that some members of Illinois’s congressional representatives in the House took in favor or against impeachment may affect their 2020 election prospects.

The Illinois delegation voted along party lines on the two articles of impeachment, with 13 voting in favor and 4 against. Among the Illinois Democrats who voted in favor, U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville), and Sean Casten (D-Wheaton) narrowly won their midterm elections. The two representatives will need to defend their votes to succeed in 2020, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Underwood, who narrowly won in the 2018 midterms, flipped her congressional seat by defeating four-term incumbent former U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Plano). Underwood said she chose to vote for impeachment because she considered the evidence too compelling.

“The president has demonstrated a pattern of corrupt behavior and abused his power for his own personal political gain when he pressured foreign leaders to conduct investigations against political rivals, jeopardizing our country’s national security and the integrity of our elections,” Underwood said.

However, Michelle Jordan, the president of the Democratic Party of Evanston, said Underwood’s vote will render her 2020 reelection campaign more difficult.

Jordan said Underwood’s district is highly conservative and white.

“She is a diverse candidate, so it is going to be a very heavy lift,” Jordan said,

She said the Midwest Alliance of Progressives, an initiative started by the DPOE that seeks to support democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, will likely direct resources to support Underwood’s reelection.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinksi (D-Western Springs), who narrowly won a primary challenge in 2018, has been criticised by other Democrats for his moderate and sometimes conservative views, especially on abortion. While he voted in favor of impeachment, he said he expressed reservations about his choice.

“(Voting in favor of impeachment) may further weaken Congress,” Lipinski said. “In November 2020, President Trump may be reelected.”

Beyond Illinois though, there are dozens of Democratic house members who flipped seats in the 2018 midterms who also voted in favor of impeaching President Trump.

But Jordan said that she did not anticipate Democrats losing control of the House in 2020, even though one or two representatives might lose seats based on their impeachment votes.

“There are so many people outraged with what’s been happening [in the impeachment trial],” Jordan said.

Regardless of political affiliation and implications for reelection, Juliet Sorensen, a clinical professor of law at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, said congressional investigations exposed legitimate grounds for impeachment, falling under the Constitutional definitions of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In predicting political consequences that could be in store for any of the vulnerable Illinois representatives following impeachment, Sorensen highlighted the defining aspect of impeachment that sets it apart from a traditional legal proceeding.

“Remember that (impeachment) is not a purely legal process,” Sorenson said. “It’s also political process.”

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