WASHINGTON — After the vote, reporters flocked around Rep. Jeff Van Drew.
The South Jersey congressman was one of just two Democrats who broke with his party Thursday on the first full House vote related to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
It was a vote that kept with Van Drew’s long history of defying party orthodoxy, both in the state Legislature and now the U.S. House, but which drew howls of criticism from the left. Afterwards, Van Drew answered reporters’ questions about why he voted “nay,” the potential for a primary challenge and why, he said, he is keeping an open mind about potential impeachment charges.
Here are some of his responses. The questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Why he voted no:
“We will impeach, I’m sure, in the House. That will go to the Senate. It will fail in the Senate as far as actually convicting him, and then we’re going to have a failed impeachment. We are going to have the same president, and we’re going to have the same presidential candidate who will be able to say that he was exonerated, so I don’t know how much we really gained from that. And at the same time we’re going to be so focused on these issues, we’re not going to have the focus on the issues we all care about so much like health care, like prescription drugs, like infrastructure like veterans concerns and doing more for the veterans.”
Many Democratic voters want to see impeachment move forward. Have you heard from them in your district?
Sure, you’re going to hear from them. You can never make everybody happy; that’s the tough part about this.
What do you tell them?
I tell them everything that I just told you. I tell them what I believe. I tell them that I thought really long and hard on it. I tell them that I literally, not to sound like a Holy Roller, I’m not, but I literally prayed on it, and I’m doing the best that I know how to do. And I think that at the end of the day, this is going to hurt the country.
Do you hear more from people who oppose or favor impeachment?
I hear actually more from people that want to talk about everything but, believe it or not. It’s insiders or people who are very political that want to talk about impeachment, but the people I hear from ... people talk about problems they had with disability [benefits], they talk about problems that they are nurses and they want to have the ability to actually be able to do more, since there’s a shortage of doctors. I hear about how there’s potholes in the road, and we still haven’t done anything with infrastructure and we should fix the bridges and fix the roads. I hear all those types of things. I hear how taxes are too high, and they want more money in their pocket.
Are you concerned this could open you up to a primary opponent?
I was primaried last time by three people. If I’m primaried, I’m primaried, that’s the American way. I don’t worry about that. You just have to do what you believe is right. (Van Drew won a four-way primary for the Democratic nomination in 2018).
Are you open to changing your views as public hearings continue?
Yes, of course. I hope I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I’m always a very open person to all ideas, so if something comes along that is really treasonous or truly a high crime and truly is at the level of impeachment — please understand how important and how serious impeachment is — at that time, of course I would.
But it sounds like you haven’t heard that yet?
I have not.