WASHINGTON — When U.S. Rep. Ed Case came to Washington he had no intention of impeaching President Donald Trump.
As a moderate Democrat it just wasn’t part of his agenda the way it was for some of the more liberal members of his caucus.
Yet on Dec. 18, Case stood near the Capitol steps and reflected on the vote he was about to take in the U.S. House of Representatives, one that would forever brand Trump as only the third U.S. president to ever be impeached.
“It’s a solemn, sobering and sad exercise of my constitutional duties,” Case said in an interview with Civil Beat.
“I’m thinking about the precedent of the moment, and I’m hoping that the deep divisions that it has revealed and the lasting disagreements that it has fostered can heal over time and that we can look back on this vote with the benefit of history and say we did the right thing.”
The Hawaii congressman’s first year back in office was marked with historic milestones.
He was elected to represent Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District in 2018 as part of a “blue wave” that gave Democrats control of the House and brought the most diverse freshman class in U.S. history to Washington. While it was no surprise that Hawaii elected a Democrat, he joined them in serving as a check on the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Senate that’s proven itself beholden to the president’s whims.
One of his first votes named Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House, which distinguished her for the second time as the only woman to ever hold the position, and one of only two politicians to hold it twice.
Although Case was technically considered a freshman, he had served in Congress before as a representative of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District that encompasses rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
That experience helped him secure a coveted position on the House Appropriations Committee, an assignment that gave Case even more power over the purse strings.
By the end of the year, he and his colleagues would pass a $1.4 trillion budget deal that Trump signed into law, no small feat considering that when Case first arrived in Washington in January 2018 the country was in the throes of what would eventually become the longest ever U.S. government shutdown.
“In many ways I feel like I’ve lived in two parallel universes over the year,” Case said.
On the one hand, there is the universe of incredibly deep and contentious partisan division that played out in debates over issues, such as immigration, border wall funding and foreign policy, he said, the culmination of which ended with Trump’s impeachment.
That vote fell almost entirely along party lines, something Case said was “doubly tragic” because he doesn’t believe impeachment should have been a partisan issue.
“I knew I was coming into a divided Congress,” Case said. “I knew it was going to be hard and I knew that I needed to try to bridge those differences where I could and disagree forcefully and respectfully when I needed to.”
The second universe, Case said, is one in which Democrats controlled the House and were able to pass meaningful legislation, from H.R. 1, a sweeping overhaul of campaign finance and ethics rules, to a proposal approved earlier this month that would lower prescription drug costs.
While neither bill has much of a shot of passing in the Senate, where Republicans still maintain a firm grip on power, it at least serves as a signal to 2020 voters of what a Democratic platform might look like should they retake the chamber and the White House.
There were a number of compromises as well, particularly on the budget deal and the National Defense Authorization Act, which gave Trump his Space Force, but also included a provision — authored by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii — to give federal workers 12 weeks of paid family leave.
Case said he was proud, too, of some of the more Hawaii-specific accomplishments, including the formation of the Congressional Pacific Island Caucus and securing hundreds of millions of dollars in the budget deal for various projects in the state.
He also pointed to a number of bills he introduced over the course of the year that seek to protect coral reefs, take on vacation rentals and limit the influence of the Jones Act, a federal shipping law that many believe leads to the increased cost of goods in Hawaii.
“It’s been a schizophrenic year,” Case said.
“You’ve got the world that most people think about with the division that culminated in impeachment and then you’ve got the world of, I think, faithfully, diligently and capably serving my constituents, my Hawaii and my country as a representative.”
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