One of the many advantages of being the majority party in the House is the ability to make the minority party furious. That was the play behind Wednesday’s resolution to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a nonbinding measure meant entirely to embarrass Democrats, because some of their most left-wing members want ICE to be abolished, and because at the moment that idea is a loser in the polls.
The left-wingers didn’t bite. Rep. Marc Pocan (D-Wis.), who has sponsored the House’s only “Abolish ICE” bill, voted “present,” as did most of his Democratic colleagues. Eighteen Democrats voted for the resolution, though — and Republicans expected them to. An earlier idea, to bring up Pocan’s bill for a vote, was scrapped after it was seen as an easy “no” vote for Democrats in swing and Senate races.
But those Democrats ended up backing the resolution anyway — along with a few others. Because this is probably not the last “stunt” vote we’ll see before the midterms, here’s a guide to the outliers.
The Trump district Democrats
Just a dozen House Democrats represent districts where voters rejected Hillary Clinton in 2016. Half of them voted to support ICE agents: Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).
While Gottheimer and Kind have drawn second-tier challengers — and while both districts have grown more Democratic since 2016 — the other four are in serious races and taking any chance they can to present themselves as pragmatists. Cartwright, in particular, has been attacked at home for his past votes against enhanced immigration law enforcement; his vote Wednesday will nestle next to his vote for “Kate’s Law” as he argues that voters in his Lehigh Valley district should not confuse him with those other, more radical Democrats.
The Senate candidates
Rosen is her party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in Nevada, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is cruising to her party’s nomination in that state. Both are swing states; both candidates have straddled the line on immigration, attacking the Trump administration’s enforcement tactics and endorsing the Dream Act while looking for ways to blunt the expected “open borders” attacks.
The Blue Dogs
There’s some more overlap here: Half of the Democratic “ayes” came from members of the Blue Dog Democratic caucus, which includes Gottheimer, O’Halleran and Sinema. Just as notable was which Blue Dogs voted present — most of their Latino membership, as well as Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), who narrowly held off a left-wing primary challenge in part because of support from Latino voters.
The Safe Seat Holdouts
Just five of the Democratic “aye” votes came from Democrats who don’t really identify as conservatives but sometimes break with their left: Rep. Ami Bera (Calif.), Rep. Al Lawson (Fla.), Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (Mass.), Rep. Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.), and Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (Ind.). None is seen as endangered in November. Bera, a three-time target of Republicans, is facing the weakest opponent of his career. Suozzi, who represents the only part of Long Island that got bluer from 2012 to 2016, is also from one of the communities where the president most frequently comes to highlight the danger of gang activity involving undocumented immigrants.
Two of these Democrats, however, are facing primaries. Lynch, who has long been the most conservative member of his state’s all-Democratic delegation, is facing two challenges from his left, most notably from the game designer and anti-“Gamergate” activist Brianna Wu. Lawson, who once challenged a Blue Dog Democrat in Florida, is now being opposed from his left, by former Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown.