WASHINGTON — The only Democrat representing Oklahoma Congress, U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, has yet to make a decision regarding the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“I'm taking time to review the articles,” said Horn. “They just came out [Tuesday] morning. We're dealing with some very serious and important issues here, and I want to make sure that I take everything into account.”
Charles Finochiarro, associate director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma, said it’s not surprising.
“Politically, the signal that it sends is ‘I'm sort of an impartial judge on this. I want to wait until we can see what the evidence shows,’” said Finocchiaro. “It doesn't show a rush to judgment and it gives her plenty of options until you see exactly what the final language looks like on those articles of impeachment.”
Horn sits in a district that voted for President Donald Trump by 13.4 points back in 2016. She and 28 other democrats have yet to comment on impeachment; however, Horn may be in a trickier spot than others because she sits in the most competitive seat in the U.S., where she won with just 0.3% of the vote.
Finocchiaro said Trump’s 2016 win is a good indicator of Horn’s potential weaknesses.
“She certainly probably the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent going into the 2020 election just because of the nature of her district,” said Finocchiaro.
But Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that he even thinks the articles of impeachment vote will not pass or narrowly pass the House because of other Democrats in a similar position as Horn. Of the freshman class, 22 sit in districts that voted for Trump in 2016.
“The Democrats are depending on all the Democrats voting to impeach the president,” said Inhofe. “I'm not sure they all will. In fact, I think that's a big surprise right now.”
This isn’t the first time the Horn has dragged her feet on a decision. When the House voted to continue the impeachment inquiry, Horn didn’t announce her decision to vote for open hearings until the day before the vote.
At the time, Horn said, “I am an Oklahoman, I’m American, and my party doesn’t dictate what I do, and it never will.”
Now Horn is saying she needs to focus on other issues.
“I take everything into account,” said Horn. “I'm very thoughtful. This is about the work that we're doing to fight for Oklahomans. In the meantime, we're about to vote on reducing the cost of prescription drugs with H.R. 3, we're going to pass the defense authorization bill, USMCA and I’m staying focused on that so I've got to take a little more time to consider everything.”
The House passed late Wednesday the defense authorization bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, in a compromise negotiated in part by Horn and Inhofe with an “overwhelmingly bipartisan 377-48 vote.” The bill gives a 3.1% pay raise to service members and includes a tenant bill of rights to protect families who live on military bases from inadequate housing issues. Horn was the first representative to bring that national problem to Congress.
H.R. 3 also passed late Thursday.
Inhofe said the Democrats will either pass the vote to impeach the President, or the vote will be very close because of the representatives in strong Trump districts.
“Look, these guys will be up for reelection in the House of Representatives at the same time Trump would be up for reelection,” said Inhofe “I just can't imagine anyone voting to impeach a President that's very popular in their districts.”
One such Democrat, Congressman Jeff Van Drew (D-Minn), told USA Today Wednesday that he will vote against all articles of impeachment. Trump won his district by a 4.6 margin, according to fivethirtyeight.
“She's in an even more vulnerable position than Van Drew is,” said Finocchiaro. “That's a sign that there will be at least a handful of Democratic votes against one or both of the articles of impeachment.”
Horn and other Democrats in similar positions may support the party and their constituents by voting “yes,” on one of the articles of impeachment and “no,” on the other, according to Finocchiaro.
From the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, the Republican members of the Oklahoma delegation have spoken against impeachment. Congressmen Kevin Hern and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla) attempted forced entry into closed-door impeachment hearings, before the continuation vote.
Congressman Tom Cole said the President was not getting fair treatment from the House.
“I have not seen any evidence that would suggest the President's done anything remotely impeachable,” he said.
Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla) said that continuing the impeachment process “belittles,” the purpose of Representatives.
Although Inhofe said Democrats don’t want the stigma of voting to impeach while running for reelection, he expects Horn to vote for impeaching the President.
“Certainly Horn’s already voted on supporting the process of impeachment,” said Inhofe. “It'd be very difficult for her NOT to be willing to vote to impeach the President after she's already cast one vote.”
Finocchiaro isn’t so sure.
“I'm sure at least a few more Democrats to defect,” said Finocchiaro. “Horn is probably one of the most likely candidates there.”
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.