WASHINGTON — After three months of hearings and rancorous political debate, there are actually still Democrats who say they’re undecided on whether to vote for the articles impeaching President Trump.
One of them is Rep. Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who flipped a formerly Republican district in South Carolina in the 2018 midterms but says his constituents at home are telling him they’re ready to “move on” from impeachment to other issues like trade and prescription drug prices.
Stopped in the Capitol on Thursday afternoon, Cunningham told VICE News he’s still mulling his decision. “It’s a vote that each of us will have to take and we’ll have to live with, and I’m not looking at this through any political lens,” he said. “It’s sad. It’s just like the last two days have been very sobering.”
Cunningham voted in November for the resolution opening the impeachment inquiry, a vote that many perceive as an indicator for what the final vote on impeachment will look like. As a final vote nears, he says he’s feeling no pressure from Democratic leadership to vote one way or another.
Different than Mueller
At the time of his election last year, Cunningham said he was keen to work across the aisle with Republicans and the president on issues like infrastructure, and leave Special Counsel Mueller to finish his report on Russian interference into the 2016 election.
But the charges leveled against Trump in the ongoing impeachment proceedings are giving Cunningham pause. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president hit him “differently” than the Mueller report, he explains.
“I just think that when I read the transcript of that phone call — or the rough transcript — it was a sitting president at the time and soliciting help from a foreign government,” he said. “Not soliciting help, but making them an offer they can’t refuse. Just completely different.”
He says he’s reviewed the two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — and found them sufficient. “I think it’s pretty narrowly tailored which I think is a good thing,” he said.
Cunningham is considered one of the most endangered Democrats in the House of Representatives after flipping a Republican-held seat in the November 2018 midterms and has been a frequent target of the National Republican Congressional Committee who hope to win back the district next year.
The freshman does not sit on any of the relevant committees and has instead been talking about other policy issues, like paid family leave, which he is working with the Trump administration on. On Thursday he attended a White House summit on the issue and posted photos of him alongside other freshman members, like Republican Dan Crenshaw, and also a private conversation with Ivanka Trump.
He says his constituents are tired of impeachment and want to “move on” to other issues, like the re-write of NAFTA known as the USMCA, and lowering prescription drug prices.
“I’ll take a look at what comes out of Judiciary and how it’s edited and then just pray about it,” he said.
Cover: Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., is seen before a news conference at the House Triangle on legislation that would ban offshore drilling September 11, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)