Nearly all of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump are signaling they’re committed to defending their seats and going head-to-head with the Trump wing of the party, teeing up a massive intraparty showdown and putting GOP leaders in the crosshairs of the vindictive former President.
While Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez announced his retirement from Congress last week, citing the “toxic” dynamics in the Republican Party, the others who linked arms in January with their impeachment votes don’t appear ready to follow Gonzalez into the exits — at least not yet.
Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington state said “yes” he’s definitely running again.
“There may be one vote that people disagree with, but I think I can hold my head high,” he said.
Rep. John Katko of New York said “of course” he planned to run, a sentiment echoed by Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan. And Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said “bring it” when Trump endorsed one of her primary opponents.
Only veteran Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan is actively considering whether to call it quits, but he told CNN he is going to base his decision on what his seat looks like after redistricting — not Trump.
“We’ve always have run away ahead of Trump — tens of thousands of votes,” Upton told CNN. “We’ll have the resources to win. I’m not worried.”
Despite their resolve, however, it’s entirely possible that only some of them return to Congress in 2023, thanks to a combination of pro-Trump forces in their primaries and changes to their district lines. Not only are they facing potentially nasty and expensive primary races, but they’re also dealing with threats to their physical safety and questions about whether they’re even welcome in today’s GOP.
Taken together, it shows how the impeachment crew is fighting an uphill battle for survival in a House Republican conference that has swung dramatically in Trump’s direction, even after he left office.
“I certainly hope that every one of them, every one of us, continues to fight,” Cheney told CNN. “The party right now is at a place that is really dangerous and that is really unhealthy, and it may be that it takes a couple of cycles for us to fix that, but I think there are very many people who are really committed to making sure the Republican Party does come back.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who, along with Cheney, represents the most outspoken Trump critic among the 10 who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, says he doesn’t know what his Illinois district will look like — or if it will even exist — after the redistricting process.
But he told CNN he plans to run for reelection no matter what.
Both Cheney and Kinzinger serve on the House’s select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, which could drag into the election year and serve as fodder for their Republican opponents.
“I’m not sweating it,” he said.
When Trump’s revenge campaign conflicts with GOP strategy
While the group may find itself on a lonely island when it comes to its stance on Trump, at least some of them are getting a boost from House GOP leadership for their reelection campaigns. Half of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection — Reps. David Valadao of California, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Katko, Upton and Meijer — participate in a joint fundraising committee with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his leadership PAC, which raised roughly $100,000 for each of the five campaigns in the first half of the year.
In an interview, Katko noted that he’s the vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee — and expected to get aid from the campaign arm if needed.
“They’ve always supported me huge — and I don’t have any reason for that change,” Katko said.
Asked if he regretted his vote to impeach Trump, Katko said: “Not for a second.”
But that financial support has put McCarthy directly in the crosshairs of the right, with Trump now putting pressure on the California Republican to cut off funding for those members.
“I’m going to see who he’s funding, and if he is, I’ll stop the whole deal. I’ll stop it,” Trump told “The John Fredericks Show” on Thursday.
Republican leaders have publicly brushed aside Trump’s efforts to wade into GOP primaries. The National Republican Congressional Committee has a long-standing policy of officially staying neutral in primaries, but it does provide other resources that help dues-paying incumbents.
“The former President can do whatever he wants. It’s very personal to him. I get it,” Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the committee, told CNN. “We’re focused on winning the majority. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
In some cases, Trump’s revenge campaign may directly conflict with the GOP’s strategy for seizing back power. And Trump himself suggested he’s not necessarily motivated by what’s best for the party, taking shots at Valadao and Katko — some of the more vulnerable House Republicans up for reelection next year.
“I would almost rather have the Democrat win than those people, like in California you have a candidate who is really much more of a Democrat probably than a Republican,” Trump said, referring to Valadao. He added of Katko: “Not popular, and I think he’ll be districted out.”
Yet Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP whip, called Katko and Valadao “solid members of our conference.”
“And just like we have some primary infighting on our side, the Democrats have a lot of primary infighting on their side,” Scalise told CNN.
The GOP leadership has helped other members who voted to impeached Trump as well.
Newhouse, the Washington state Democrat, said he expects the National Republican Congressional Committee’s help in his race.
“They’ve already committed to helping,” he said on Wednesday.
He said his impeachment vote amounts to a mixed bag of sorts in his district.
“Some people can’t get past it and others don’t agree but they’re willing to overlook one of (thousands) of votes,” Newhouse said. “Frankly, a lot of other people come up and thank me, and so it’s kind of across the board.”
Asked if he regretted the vote, he said: “No, I think it was the right thing to do. Difficult obviously, a difficult vote. We’ll work as hard as we can to be honest and continue representing Washington.”
The future of the party
The fate of the House Republicans who backed impeachment in the 2022 midterms will be a key marker signaling if there’s a place for anti-Trump Republicans in today’s GOP, a battle that could have significant implications heading into 2024 as Trump has taken steps suggesting he could run again.
But Republicans who have been critical of Trump saw Gonzalez’s retirement announcement as a dire sign of the future of the House GOP, raising concerns that more Republicans could follow.
“Obviously, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the party wen principled, thoughtful leaders find there’s no room for them in today’s GOP,” said former Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania who retired from Congress in 2018. “What’s happened too often is some of these fringe, marginal elements have gone mainstream and been embraced, welcomed into the party, while thoughtful ones are pushed aside.”
Former Rep. Mark Sanford, a South Carolina Republican who was defeated by a Trump backed-Republican primary challenger in 2018, lamented the state of Republican politics and Trump’s dominance.
“We’re caught up in this cult of personality,” Sanford told CNN. “Hopefully this fever will break, but thus far it hasn’t, and we’re doubling down on stupid and destructive.”
Trump is particularly focused on Cheney, and he endorsed her GOP opponent Harriet Hageman earlier this month. The endorsement was seen as an attempt to clear the GOP field of potential opponents who could have helped Cheney’s chances of surviving the primary.
But Cheney is getting some high-powered help of her own to fight back. Former President George W. Bush is holding a fundraiser for the Wyoming Republican next month in Texas.
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.