Trump Impeachment: Vulnerable Illinois Democrats Lipinski, Underwood Reviewing Articles as Historic Vote Looms

December 13, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON — With a historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump looming, two Illinois Democrats whose congressional seats are most at risk next year — Reps. Dan Lipinski and freshman Lauren Underwood — remained uncommitted Thursday, waiting until the articles of impeachment are finalized.

The House Judiciary Committee held a marathon session Thursday, running into the evening, debating the two articles of impeachment proposed against Trump, one on abuse of power and another on obstruction of Congress.

The Democrats who control the panel swatted down GOP amendments designed to weaken the impeachment resolution. The measure is expected to head to the House floor next week on party-line Judiciary Committee votes.

Democrats have enough votes to guarantee that Trump will be the third president in the history of the nation to be impeached, joining Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon escaped impeachment because he resigned before the House voted. As of Thursday, Republicans have remained unified and all are expected to oppose Trump’s impeachment.

Trump’s Senate trial is on track for January and there are enough Republican senators to prevent him from being convicted and removed from office.

There is a bit of drama over whether there will be Democratic defections — and if some Democrats may vote for one article and not another. Only two Democrats declined earlier in the year to vote for opening the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats won back the House in 2018 with the help of Democratic victories in 31 districts Trump won in 2016.

Underwood and Rep. Cheri Bustos represent two of those 31 districts.

Lipinski is the incumbent Democrat who is most vulnerable in the March Illinois primary, facing two main rivals challenging him from the left, Marie Newman, who almost beat him in 2018, and Rush Darwish. The 3rd District primary winner will be poised to clinch the November election in the heavily Democratic district.

On Thursday, Lipinski’s spokesman, Phil Davidson, said Lipinski is reviewing hearing transcripts from the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Newman and Darwish are both in favor of the two Trump impeachment articles, their spokesmen told the Sun-Times.

Lipinski beat Newman in 2018 with GOP crossover voters and, according to a study from Brookings, people who voted for Trump.

The Brookings study concluded, “Lipinski enjoyed an advantage among Trump voters — so much so that nearly 1 in 5 Lipinski voters identified that they voted for the president (compared to just 1 in 20 of Newman voters).”

While Lipinski is the Illinois Democrat most at risk in March, Underwood is the biggest GOP November target because she is in a Republican-leaning district.

After flipping the 14th District seat in 2018, she has no March 2020 primary opponent — and seven Republicans in a primary contest for the GOP nomination.

In a phone press conference call with reporters Thursday, I asked her position on impeachment, and Underwood said, “I’m in the midst of thoroughly reviewing the articles myself and I’m reserving deciding how to vote on this important historic and sobering decision.”

Another Democratic Illinois freshman, Rep. Sean Casten, also flipped his 6th District in 2018 — but it was turf Hillary Clinton won in 2016. On Thursday, Casten said in a statement, “After reading, in full, the House Intelligence Report, House Judiciary Report, the Articles of Impeachment, and hearing from constituents at each of my 20 town halls, I have decided to take the solemn step to vote to impeach the President for abusing the powers of his office for his own personal gain.”

“My career as a scientist and businessman has taught me that facts must be the basis for any decision. Those facts have led me to this decision.”

Bustos, who is also the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House Democratic political operation — represents a Downstate district. She said in a statement, “As the work of the Judiciary Committee continues, I will review their findings with the gravity a moment like this demands.”

I’m filing this as the 41-member Judiciary Committee is in its 12th hour of deliberations. Soon the language of the Trump articles of impeachment will be complete — and members, mindful of history, will decide.