U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Donald Norcross aren’t ready to condemn Rep. Jeff Van Drew over the congressman’s no vote on an impeachment inquiry resolution that passed the House last week.
“Impeachment is one of the most challenging as well as most sacred decisions they have to make,” Menendez said. “Every member has to decide for himself or herself, so I respect that he made the decision that he did.”
Van Drew was one of only two Democrats to vote against the resolution, which established the framework for the public portion of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
That investigation is centered around a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump asked the foreign leader to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who was then a clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump next year.
The measure passed the House 232-196 in a vote that was almost entirely along party lines.
Since Van drew voted no, some progressive groups have come out calling for the congressman’s head, or calling for the Democratic party to drop him, at least.
Norcross and Menendez aren’t following that line.
“Jeff has to answer to the people in his district. It’s that simple,” Norcross said. “We represent those people. I answer to the people in the first district, and Jeff knows his district, and that’s something that he has to answer to those voters. They’ll have a chance in a year from now to make that decision.”
In a statement released the day of the vote, Van Drew said he voted against the measure because he feared an impeachment inquiry without bipartisan support would further divide the country, but it’s possible that there’s a political element to his reluctance to bend on the issue.
The second congressional district is, by all historical accounts, a right-leaning one.
Republicans held it for 24 years before Van Drew won the seat over former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman last year.
Trump is popular there, at least relative to his unpopularity in most of the state’s other congressional districts.
Voting yes on impeachment, even if the measure is procedural, would do little to help the congressman win a second term, and a victory in 2020 is already far from assured.
Other Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have expressed fears about impeachment proceedings harming Democrats at the polls next year.
The action gives Republicans something to energize their voters with, but Democrats are increasingly saying that shouldn’t be part of the impeachment calculus.
“Nancy Pelosi’s original sentiments about proceeding on impeachment in a political context were probably right, but when you take an oath to swear to uphold the constitution, at the end of the day, that oath doesn’t say you swear to uphold it only when it’s politically convenient,” Menendez said. “It may not be politically convenient, but it’s necessary to make sure that everybody, including the president, is not above the law.”