The House of Representatives held two high-profile votes this week in the wake of President Trump’s tweets that suggested that four congresswomen of color — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York , Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The House voted on Tuesday to condemn Trump’s tweets, but on Wednesday blocked a proposal to impeach Trump. The votes put the 435 members on the spot — would more conservative House Democrats join with their liberal colleagues in taking on the president, and would any Republicans break with Trump? Here’s what we learned from the two votes:
1. Nearly all House Republicans are aligning themselves with the president. There was some backlash among Republicans to Trump’s tweets. But unlike Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and other Republicans who spoke out against Trump’s comments, House Republicans had to take formal votes. Just four Republicans (Indiana’s Susan Brooks, Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, Texas’s Will Hurd and Michigan’s Fred Upton) voted in favor of the resolution to condemn Trump’s tweets as racist. In total, 187 House Republicans opposed the resolution. But all Republicans supported the vote to “table” the resolution to impeach Trump; so in effect, all of them opposed impeachment.
In short, fewer than 3 percent of House Republicans broke with the president this week, amid arguably some of his most controversial behavior since his refusal in 2017 to condemn white nationalists who held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. One reason why so few Republicans broke with Trump is that the 2018 midterm elections basically wiped out the entire class of House GOP members (25) had who represented districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Only three of those members are still in Congress, with Fitzpatrick and Hurd breaking with Trump on the vote to condemn his tweets while Rep. John Katko of New York aligned with the president’s position on both votes.
2. House Democrats, even in Trump-won districts, are comfortable with casting some of Trump’s behavior as “racist.” The resolution adopted by the House cast Trump’s tweets as “racist,” using that word explicitly. All 235 Democrats, including the 31 who represent districts Trump won in 2016, endorsed that measure. In short, these 31 members are comfortable saying that the president — whom at least a plurality of their constituents supported — has used racist language. That move suggests the swing-district Democrats did not think there would be a big backlash from voting to condemn that language and probably didn’t want to annoy Democrats in their districts by opposing this resolution.
3. The Democrats are very divided on impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly suggested that she does not want her party to push towards an impeachment of Trump. But Rep. Al Green of Texas forced an impeachment resolution onto the House floor — and the vote showed that a big bloc of Democrats are not on board with Pelosi’s stance: 95 Democrats, or about 40 percent of the 235 House Democrats, voted against tabling the resolution, suggesting they would like to impeach Trump. The four members of the very liberal “Squad” and target of Trump’s tweets (Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib) voted against tabling the resolution, but so did a host of other House Democrats.
At the same time, 137 House Democrats took the anti-impeachment stance of Pelosi. So about 60 percent of House Democrats are willing to say that Trump used racist language over the weekend but still don’t support his impeachment. For many Democrats, impeachment remains a bridge too far, but the Democrats who want to take a more confrontational approach against the president are not just Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib.
4. Trump-district Democrats in particular are wary of pushing towards impeachment. All 31 Democrats who represent districts that Trump won in 2016 voted to table the impeachment resolution. That 31-0 is very, very important. It’s hard to imagine Democrats moving forward on impeachment until some of their members in Trump-won districts are comfortable with that position. Why? Because Democrats, with only 235 seats, need some of those Trump-district Democrats to win back their positions in 2020. As long as those 31 Democrats are wary of impeachment, I would expect Pelosi not to take that stance either.
To conclude, these voting patterns are not particularly surprising — Republicans at all levels of government are increasingly aligned with Trump, and Democrats seem comfortable characterizing some of Trump’s behavior as bad — even impeachable — but very unwilling to try to push him out of office. That said, these votes forced the two parties to formalize their respective stances. What’s notable is that some of the swing-district Democrats have joined their liberal colleagues in casting some of Trump’s behavior as racist, while basically all House Republicans have now declared that Trump’s language in the tweets did not deserve a formal rebuke. Additionally, a very strong majority in the House (137 Democrats and 194 Republicans, so just over 75 percent of the members) declared that they are not yet ready to push forward on impeaching Trump.