Why Two “Impeachment” Washington House Republicans are Going Their Separate Ways

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Just 10 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump after the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Perhaps the most surprising support came from U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a quiet, conservative backbencher from the 4th Congressional District in Central Washington.

Newhouse and Evergreen state seatmate Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., both voted to impeach. In a House floor speech, Newhouse declared: “Last week there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he [Trump] did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”

The House took up the 1/6 insurrection again last Thursday, voting 229-202 to find former Trump “chief strategist” Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for spurning a subpoena from the House committee investigating the assault on American democracy.  All 202 No votes came from Republicans, circling wagons around Trump, with just 9 defying the ex-President.

Herrera Beutler was one of the nine GOP votes to send Bannon’s case to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.  Dan Newhouse, after voting to impeach Trump, voted not to cite his henchman. (So did Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., hoping to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee should Republicans retake control in 2022.)

Why have the two Republicans who voted for impeachment gone their separate ways? Both are facing Trump-backed challengers in next year’s primary.

Herrera Beutler has likely never to find herself back in the good graces of GOP House leadership. She “outed” a conversation in which House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called Trump, asking that he call off the rioters, only to have the 45th President snap: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”  McCarthy scuttled off to Mar a Lago weeks later to make peace with Trump and has since tried to stonewall investigation of the insurrection.

For her re-election, Herrera Beutler benefits in having an extreme opponent. Ex-Navy Seal Joe Kent, praised by Trump, spoke at a September rally in Washington, D.C., called to defend insurrectionists being prosecuted for their actions. “It’s banana republic stuff when political prisoners are arrested and denied due process,” he declared.

The 3rd District, in Southwest Washington, still has a Democratic base, albeit a shrinking one.  In Washington’s top-two primary, the embattled Herrera Beutler could get a boost from Democrats and independent voters who appreciate the courage of her stands.

Not so Newhouse.  He didn’t have to fight a Democrat to enter Congress but twice faced far-right Tea Party Republican Clint Didier, an Eltopia farmer and former NFL tight end with the (then) Washington. Redskins. State Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, and 2020 GOP gubernatorial nominee Loren Culp have already announced challenges.

The result: Newhouse is back as a party loyalist, and not just on citing Bannon. Earlier this year, Newhouse voted against a motion by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set up an independent, bipartisan commission to probe the January insurrection. Senate Republicans killed the commission, leading to today’s House select committee.

The House voted 285-120, earlier this year, to remove figures from the Confederacy in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.  Sixty-seven Republicans – heck, even Cathy McMorris Rodgers – supported removing Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis from places of honor.  Newhouse voted No.

Newhouse has joined as co-sponsor on legislation that would block critical race theory from being promoted by governments or taught in America’s public schools.  “Teaching students to be ashamed of our country and to judge each other based on the color of their skin is wrong and divisive,” he declared. Newhouse followed up with another broadside: “Biden has abandoned his commitment to equal treatment under the law with his most recent proposal to fund critical race theory proposals.”

Such sentiments come from a politician whose district includes a large and growing Latino population long denied economic justice and political standing.

During the COVID-19 crisis, Newhouse has sponsored legislation to declare those who are employed in the firearms industry as “essential workers.” To “restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners” during a pandemic crisis is “unconscionable,” he declared. Support from the National Rifle Association was crucial in Newhouse victories over Didier.

Donald Trump will never forgive Dan Newhouse. He is, however, making amends, even when it involves covering up for, excusing, and rewriting the history of the most serious assault on the U.S. Capitol since the War of 1812 — an assault that lead to Dan Newhouse’s one show of independence during his four terms in Congress.

As committee vice-chair, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, put it on Thursday: “There’s a moment when politics must stop if we want to defend and protect our institutions.”

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I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

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