Roskam, Casten spar over voting like, acting like and impeaching President Trump
President Donald Trump likely will play at least a three-part role in the race for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this November.
The two candidates in the heated congressional battle sparred during an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald over voting with Trump, acting like Trump and the possibility of impeaching Trump.
Democratic challenger Sean Casten of Downers Grove accuses Republican incumbent Peter Roskam of Wheaton of voting like Trump.
Roskam, 56, accuses Casten, 46, of acting like Trump.
And neither will definitively say how he would vote were there a push to impeach the president.
As Roskam and Casten head into the Nov. 6 election seeking to represent a wide swath of the suburbs — from Naperville to Tower Lakes including parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties — the president will remain a central figure in their campaigns.
Here is how the Trump-related issues are shaping up.
Voting like Trump
Among Casten's most consistent critiques of Roskam is the Republican's record of voting with Trump.
“Peter's voted with Donald Trump 94 percent of the time. That is not the thinking of the people in the district. It's not the values of the district,” Casten said, telling Roskam, “Independence is not your strong suit.”
A tracking of 89 votes between Jan. 5, 2017, and July 25, 2018, by the political news website FiveThirtyEight shows Roskam voted the same way as Trump 84 times and opposed the president five times.
Roskam did not deny the record but said he would have to check FiveThirtyEight himself to verify its accuracy.
“Here's some of the votes that were in the 94 percent figure: Harvey relief, opioid relief, Puerto Rico relief, FAA reauthorization, ‘right to try' for terminal patients, support for veterans, keeping the government open, Department of Defense spending, flood insurance ... removing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies,” Roskam said, reading from notes.
“What I just outlined is a number of examples that are common sense things that I would hope Sean would vote for,” Roskam said. “My point is that a number of these things are completely within the scope of the 6th Congressional District.”
In a district that voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a 7-percentage-point margin in 2016, a representative who sides so frequently with Trump is out of step, Casten said. In his analysis of reports on FiveThirtyEight, Casten said he could find only nine representatives who vote more often with Trump than Roskam.
“The reality is that this is a district that is very hostile to what the Trump-led Republican Party has become,” Casten said, “and they are represented by someone who is, effectively, there's only nine members of Congress who have a bigger rubber stamp than the one that Peter uses.”
Acting like Trump
Roskam's most-repeated line of offense during the endorsement interview was that Casten feeds political hyperbole, using techniques of “overstatement and overcharacterization” similar to those employed by Trump.
“He's compared the president of the United States to Osama bin Laden,” Roskam said. “ ... He has called my party ‘a party of pedophiles'; he has described Republican donors as ‘morons'; he has described my party in something that he retweeted in June as ‘a group of deplorables.' By contrast, the way I've conducted myself as reflecting this district has sought to work with the other side of the aisle.”
Casten apologized for his February comment saying Trump and bin Laden “have a tremendous amount in common” and said it was over-the-top in the heat of a campaign conversation.
He said Roskam is taking several of his Twitter posts out of context. And he said Congress has an obligation to act as a check and balance on the president, something he won't hesitate to do.
“We have a big problem with silent complicity,” Casten said. “We are facing an existential crisis to democracy. We have a president who believes that he is above the rule of law. We have a president who is following the approaches that have been made by despots and demagogues throughout history.”
Calling out the president can be done in a civil manner, Roskam said. He said he's released statements or had conversations with the president condemning Trump's failure to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, criticizing his response to the white supremacist rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, and opposing his stances on tariffs and Great Lakes conservation funding.
Calling out Trump with exaggerated statements isn't productive, Roskam said.
“The irony is Sean, who is Donald Trump's biggest critic, is ironically emulating him,” Roskam said. “It is Sean who is channeling Donald Trump and that politics of ridicule.”
Casten's party would be more likely to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump, especially if Democrats win a majority in the House. But Casten isn't sure he sees the political math.
“Impeaching doesn't accomplish anything unless the Senate votes to remove,” he said. “Do you think this will be anything other than a party-line vote? Will Republican members of the Senate put right and wrong before right and left?”
Casten said he expects not, because he said Republicans are proving they'll do whatever Trump wants at all times.
Roskam said “the notion of impeachment of the president of the United States is the most serious thing that a House of Representatives can take up,” but he did not say which way he would vote.
He also repeated his defense of the Russian election-meddling investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which he said is not under threat. But Roskam said the probe needs to wrap up so leaders can understand whether there was any wrongdoing and act accordingly.