Reality check: Dem attitudes on impeachment vary widely
WASHINGTON (AP) — Impeach Trump? For Democrats, the answer is complicated.
While more than 130 House Democrats — more than half the caucus — have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, according to a tally by The Associated Press, those numbers don’t reflect the whole story. The number of Democrats who would actually vote to recommend articles of impeachment, at this point, is significantly smaller.
The picture has been complicated further by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s insistence, beginning in late July, that the panel is already conducting impeachment proceedings. Since then, some Democrats have endorsed Judiciary’s work on impeachment without taking a position on whether to vote to begin an official inquiry.
The varying sentiments will be critical as Democrats decide the next steps this fall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly counseled caution, telling Democratic colleagues on a call last week that “the public isn’t there on impeachment” and the case needs to be as strong as possible.
A breakdown of where the Democrats stand:
THE RIGHT NOW DEMOCRATS
A handful of the most liberal Democrats in the caucus have been pushing for impeachment since Trump was elected. Texas Rep. Al Green has been lobbying to remove the president since 2017, and has already forced three impeachment votes on the House floor. The most recent vote, in July, failed by a lopsided 332-95 vote.
The right now group also includes the self-described “squad” of freshmen Democrats: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Tlaib has introduced a resolution to begin the impeachment process; it has 17 co-sponsors.
THE PROCEED QUICKLY DEMOCRATS
Members of the House Judiciary Committee have been at the forefront of calls for an inquiry. The committee, which oversees impeachment and other hot-button issues like guns and immigration, often attracts some of the caucus’ most liberal members. Democrats on the panel were among the first to start pushing Pelosi last spring, with many saying after the release of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that the House needed to formally consider impeachment.
“Here in Judiciary we are on the front line,” Pennsylvania Rep. Madeline Dean said in May, after she called for an impeachment inquiry. “And I believe that our caucus is counting on us to inform them, day by day.”
The impeachment calls from the Judiciary committee in the spring were soon amplified by many Democrats in the most liberal districts.
THE RELUCTANT BUT SUPPORTIVE DEMOCRATS
As the list of inquiry supporters grew, some Democrats from less liberal districts joined the calls. But they were more cautious.
“I believe my constituents sent me to Congress, in part, because of my reputation for being thoughtful and deliberate,” Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a freshman from a swing district, said in July. “I did not run for office with the purpose of impeaching the president, but I did take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”
Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood hails from a district that supported Trump in 2016. “Let me be clear,” she said in a statement this month supporting the Judiciary panel’s investigation. “No one wins when Congress is compelled to investigate impeachment or bring about articles of impeachment. This is a tragedy for our country.”
Others made clear that while they support an inquiry, they do not support impeachment, at least for now.
“While they may sound the same, an impeachment inquiry is not the same thing as supporting impeachment,” said California Rep. Harley Rouda, also a freshman from a swing district. “In fact, my hope is that opening an inquiry will allow Congress to gather the information we need to conclude these investigations without impeaching the president, which would only serve to further divide the country.”
THE WAIT AND SEE DEMOCRATS
There are still more than 100 House Democrats who have not called for an inquiry. Many of them are following the lead of Pelosi, who is supportive of Nadler’s committee but has repeatedly said they need to wait until the facts are in to hold any votes.
Among those still holding back is California Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the intelligence panel. That committee is also investigating Trump and Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
Still, some of Pelosi’s closest allies, and members of Democratic leadership, have called for an official investigation. New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, third in line behind Pelosi, this month became the highest-ranking Democrat in the House to call for an inquiry.
THE NEVER EVER DEMOCRATS
Part of Pelosi’s equation is protecting the most moderate Democrats in the caucus, many of whom helped win the House majority when they defeated Republicans in swing districts in 2018. While some of those members have cautiously called for an impeachment inquiry, others are firmly on the side of no.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat who represents a district Trump won in 2016, said he has told Pelosi “numerous times” that he believes impeachment isn’t warranted at this point. He said it would disenfranchise voters who supported the president, and would be a losing battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“You’re not changing anything that people want changed, and it dies in the Senate,” Van Drew said in July. “So what did you do? You tried to embarrass somebody or shame them, and it’s not even going to work.”
Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, also from a swing district, said her constituents are skeptical.
“People in my district are wanting us to pass bills and they fear that if we go down this path of impeachment, we’re not going to be working on the things that affect their lives, their pocketbooks, their kids,” she said.
If Democrats pursue impeachment, Slotkin said, “we better have our act together.”