The ranks of pro-impeachment-inquiry Democrats are growing each week, but it’s still not enough to move the needle for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As of last week, more than 80 Democrats were calling for an impeachment inquiry, which is a critical first step toward attempting to oust the president.
Most strikingly, the count now includes some devoted Pelosi supporters. Reps. Janice D. Schakowsky of Illinois, Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Eric Swalwell of California have joined the inquiry camp in the past few weeks.
But the pro-impeachment forces still make up only slightly more than one-third of the House Democratic Caucus, and they are divided over how far and how fast to go.
“It’s still a relatively small number comparative to the totality of the Democratic Caucus,” Capri Cafaro, an executive in residence at American University and former state senator in Ohio, told The Washington Times. “There are nuances there that people are trying to walk fine lines to basically say they are open to impeachment without pulling the trigger.”
The impeachment movement was slow to get rolling but began picking up speed after former White House counsel Don McGahn refused to appear before Congress in May. Momentum grew after former special counsel Robert Mueller addressed the nation and said his report did not exonerate the president.
Among the Democrats pushing impeachment, men outnumber women by about 50%, and support is particularly high among racial and ethnic minorities.
More than 40 current House Democrats were in Congress in 1998 when President Bill Clinton was impeached, and seven of them are backing the effort against Mr. Trump, according to The Washington Times’ tally.
Of those who have expressed support, some interesting dynamics have emerged.
A half dozen are lawmakers from swing districts, including five freshmen who flipped Republican-held seats last year: Reps. Katie Porter of California, Sean Casten of Illinois, Harley Rouda of California, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida.
Analysts said most of the lawmakers are studying poll numbers and taking the temperature of constituents, and as opinion changes, so could support for impeachment.
“This is right for me and my district,” Rep. James A. Himes, Connecticut Democrat, told reporters last week. “One of the things that held me back was my concern for members in districts that are more appreciative of Donald Trump than mine are, and I still worry about that.”
Ms. Mucarsel-Powell represents the southern tip of Florida, where 62% of state voters overall oppose impeachment. Among Democrats, support is 64%, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll conducted last month.
Seven committee chairmen have endorsed full impeachment or an inquiry. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who heads the House Judiciary Committee and would oversee any impeachment effort, reportedly argued that starting an inquiry could free up lawmakers to talk more openly about the move without violating House rules governing disparaging a president.
Other lawmakers say that since impeachment is considered a quasi-judicial process, it could give Congress a way to get around some of the administration’s assertions of secrecy or privilege to help ongoing investigations stalled by an uncooperative White House.
Impeachment is the House process of bringing charges against the president. It takes only a majority vote, but nearly all Democrats would have to back the effort for it to succeed.
There is hardly any chance of the Senate marshaling the two-thirds vote needed to convict and oust Mr. Trump from office. That weighs heavily on Mrs. Pelosi, who has said any impeachment effort won’t begin until more public sentiment is behind it.
She instead has tried to keep her caucus focused and unified on legislation. She told reporters last month that she feels no pressure from her caucus.
“There is so much respect for Pelosi that I think she’s being honest when she says she doesn’t feel the pressure yet,” said Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.
Freshman firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and ardent supporter of impeachment, has grown frustrated with leadership and her fellow members for their methodical approach.
She told reporters that it’s time for her party to come up with a standard for when the time is ripe.
“I think the thing that we’re struggling with is that we don’t know what we’re waiting for,” she said. “In terms of, as a caucus and folks that are saying no, not yet, not yet — OK, accepting that is your position — what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for some kind of revelation?”
Among the curiosities of the impeachment debate is the disconnect between the dozens of lawmakers who say they back an inquiry and the relatively small number — 17 — who have signed on to legislation calling for an inquiry to begin.
That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, was introduced in March.
Holdouts offer a host of reasons. Some suggest they are waiting for the Judiciary Committee to write a bill. Others are waiting for a clearer green light from leaders.
“I don’t have any plans to sign onto any bill that is currently in form,” Rep. Norma J. Torres of California told The Washington Times. “I’m ready to take that vote, but I want to take that vote when our caucus has a meeting on this and agrees based on what issues we’re going to file impeachment papers.”
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