Impeachment Conversation Follows Congress Members Back Home

Oct 5, 2019
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And we're going to keep our focus on impeachment. We were wondering, since the U.S. Congress is currently on recess, if this story is following members home. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea decided to catch up with two members of Congress from Illinois - one a Republican, the other a Democrat, both of whom are known for occasionally standing apart from their parties on certain issues. He has this report.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Republican Adam Kinzinger represents Illinois's 16th Congressional District, which wraps around to the west and south of Chicago and includes both suburban and large rural areas. Kinzinger was at a congressional hearing in Chicago outside his district on Thursday to talk about gun violence.

ADAM KINZINGER: Well, good morning everybody. And for our witnesses, thank you very much for being here.

GONYEA: Kinzinger is among the very few GOP members of Congress whose views have shifted on guns after this summer's shootings in Dayton and El Paso. He said he would support more comprehensive background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines. He's still far from agreeing with most Democrats on the issue. But here's Kinzinger at the hearing.

KINZINGER: If we can begin to talk to each other again and respect each other again and listen to each other again, I think we'll be able to make some progress.

GONYEA: But as he left the hearing and talked briefly with reporters, Kinzinger was mostly asked about impeachment. First came questions about another statement he'd made that was out of sync with the GOP party line. When President Trump tweeted recently that his removal by impeachment would lead to a civil war-like fracture, Kinzinger tweeted a response, calling the comment, quote, "beyond repugnant." He's faced backlash from some Trump supporters over that.

KINZINGER: I'll continue to take whatever. I'm just going to do what I think is right, and we'll go forward from there.

GONYEA: But on the topic of impeachment and the formal inquiry that's been launched, Kinzinger is in line with the Republican Party.

KINZINGER: I think the Democrats jumped the gun on impeachment. I think that's obvious by the fact that they never had the transcript or even the whistleblower complaint and decided to move forward on this before any of that. So they're going to push ahead. I think it was a bad move by them.

GONYEA: Now to the congressional district right next door to the west, Illinois 17, a place that was carried by President Trump but which has a Democratic member of Congress. This is a middle school in the Mississippi River town of Moline. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is in an auditorium talking to eighth graders about the Constitution and paying special attention to its system of checks and balances. She made it clear that current events in Washington provide context for any such discussion today.

CHERI BUSTOS: So does anybody know what a subpoena is?

GONYEA: And Bustos explained to the students why she supports the U.S. House opening up impeachment hearing.

BUSTOS: I choose to look at it as a way to get to the truth. This is an impeachment inquiry. This is not an impeachment. You know the difference between those two things?

GONYEA: Bustos is actually only recently on board with the impeachment investigation. Previously, she has resisted calls for an inquiry by many of her Democratic colleagues. But her resistance ended less than two weeks ago with the whistleblower report and news of that phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president. She spoke in the hallway after her remarks.

BUSTOS: I just think it keeps getting deeper and deeper. When now he's doing a shout-out to China in broad daylight to interfere with our 2020 presidential election, it's - you know, this is beyond the pale, and we've got to make sure that we're dealing with this.

GONYEA: So two districts, side by side in Illinois, each with a member of Congress willing to occasionally step away from the party line - but so far, not on the issue of impeachment.

Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.