Northern Illinois legislators respond to impeachment proceedings

‘This is not something that I take lightly,’ U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood says of vote to impeach

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, watches election results from her campaign office Nov. 3 in St. Charles.

Now that Vice President Mike Pence has said he will not invoke the 25th Amendment and declare President Donald Trump unable to fulfill the role, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, said the time has come for her and her colleagues to act instead.

Underwood was among northern Illinois legislators who said they would vote to impeach and then did so Wednesday afternoon. Watch the vote live here.

Also on the list was U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who said Tuesday he will vote to impeach Trump on the grounds the president “broke his oath of office” and “incited this insurrection” when a mob of pro-Trump rioters sieged the Capitol building Jan. 6.

He reiterated his comments in a Wednesday phone call, telling reporters he voted for Trump in November, but he regrets that vote after seeing how the president has reacted to the election results.

In an interview Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, said the House vote should be “overwhelmingly unanimous” and said that any of his Republican colleagues who vote against impeachment will be voting “with the terrorists.”

“It pains me to say that, but the president will be impeached by the end of the day without question,” he said. “The only question is how bipartisan is going to be.”

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of East Moline, a Democrat who represents the 17th District, also voted to impeach.

“If a leader cannot or will not lead, then he must resign or be removed, and there is no doubt that the president’s actions have betrayed our great nation,” Bustos said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“I have called on the president to resign – he has remained. I have called on the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment – he has refused. The only action left to me is to vote to impeach, and so I cast my vote knowing it is the sole action I can take in good conscience,” she said.

The vote to impeach Wednesday was 232 to 197. The yes votes included 10 Republicans while the no votes included no Democrats.

The House Republicans to vote yes included Kinzinger, as well as U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Dan Newhouse of Washington, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Fred Upton of Michigan, John Katko of New York, David Valadao of California, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio.

The Senate will be out until next week, but Underwood said she expects they will move quickly to begin an impeachment trial after the House vote, something U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said she wants to see happen.

“Now that the House of Representatives has impeached Donald Trump, the Senate must act immediately to start the trial to convict and remove this dangerous man from office,” Duckworth said in an official statement. “We must make it clear that there are consequences for inciting violence and fomenting insurrection.

Casten said he thinks “the Senate is more likely to make a decision based on fact and an oath to protect the Constitution.” He pointed to senators like Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has expressed his support for impeachment, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not ruled out the possibility.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Underwood said she has held strong on her decision to vote to pass the article of impeachment against Trump, which was born of words scrawled across the notepads of Congressional members as they sheltered in place during the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and was formally introduced Monday morning.

“We have been reminded that our democracy is fragile, perhaps more fragile than we realized, but we must stand up for our values as a country and be willing to fight for its preservation and, today, I will do that because the people of the 14th [District] deserve it and our democracy demands it,” Underwood said.

“Today, I will vote to impeach the president,” she said. “This is not something that I take lightly.”

Both Underwood and Casten have been vocal about their support to impeach the president for a second time since last week’s events.

As Casten walked to the House floor to give his statement in the debate portion of Wednesday’s vote, he told Shaw Media he wanted his to be a message of unity.

“We have to find a way to come together quickly and recognize that this attack was an attack of a tiny minority who did not want to live in a government that was governed by the majority,” he said. “The fact that it was aided and abetted and incited and encouraged by people in positions of great power should not blind us to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American people are fundamentally good, fundamentally believe in democracy, fundamentally love their neighbor and, as long as we recognize that, we will get through this together.”

When asked about the political implications of voting for impeachment as a representative in a swing district that contains many Trump voters, Underwood said this is not a time for political thinking.

“This is not a political calculation. This is not a campaign action,” Underwood said in response. “This is about the oath of office that I took ... and doing my work as a representative of the people of the 14th Congressional District to defend this Constitution and our nation, and I’m committed to doing that work whatever the political implications might be.”

The 14th District stretches from Harvard to Wadsworth in the north and covers the majority of McHenry County before narrowing at Hampshire and running south to cover Sycamore, Batavia, Oswego and Plattville.

Casten agreed, saying that his vote Wednesday was to the benefit of all of his constituents, regardless of how they voted.

“I have voted Republican, I have voted Democratic, and I am quite confident that the overwhelming majority of people who expressed their will in a free and fair election, regardless of who they voted for, cherish living in a country where the results of free and fair elections dictate who controls our government every four years,” he said.

Casten serves the 6th Congressional District, which spans from Crystal Lake to Hawthorn Woods in the north down to St. Charles and Naperville.

As members of Congress prepared for the vote Wednesday, Casten said there was an air of irritability in the Capitol building, which he attributed to the strain that has been placed on the mental health of members in the past week.

“We got some recommendations after we were all locked down on [Jan. 6] that every single one of us, whether we knew it or not, were going to be struggling with PTSD after this moment,” Casten said. “We were told that … as people whose jobs require us to heal and make people feel better, we are going to feel the need to try to help the country and we should take some time to look after ourselves.”

Congressional members were briefed by the new U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, as well as the FBI, on potential security threats around Wednesday’s impeachment vote and the week leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Underwood said Wednesday.

“The threats are significant, they are real and they’re being taken seriously,” she said. “... We know that there are several far-right, white nationalist groups who are planning militia marches. ... We are being cautious and careful, but will not – will not cower.”

Thousands of National Guard troops are present at the Capitol and the secret service designated Wednesday’s vote as a “national security event” that will extend through inauguration, she said.

That includes about 200 Illinois National Guard members, according to a news release from the Illinois National Guard Tuesday.

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan is a reporter for the Northwest Herald covering county government as well as the communities of Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Marengo and Harvard. She has previously covered local politics, immigration and feature stories.

Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.