House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move toward impeaching President Trump has made some rank-and-file Democrats skittish about the I-word, with Rep. Jeff Van Drew warning that it could derail their legislative agenda ahead of the 2020 elections.
The New Jersey Democrat pushed back on his own party’s approach to starting an impeachment inquiry, saying they were getting ahead of themselves in light of the recent allegations that President Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political foe.
“Wouldn’t you like to see the report before you make the decision?” he asked reporters Wednesday. “I don’t oppose investigating further. I oppose impeachment and I oppose going down that impeachment road, and part of that is the inquiry. I think it’s too soon.”
As a freshman member from a previously Republican district, Mr. Van Drew expressed his concern that the impeachment inquiry would bleed into the 2020 elections, distract from policy work, and disenfranchise the voters who supported the president.
The conversation in Congress has already shifted away from gun control and drug pricing plans, which were two major issues last week, Mr. Van Drew pointed out. “This is going to suck all the oxygen out of the room,” he added.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a swing-district Democrat from New Jersey, said impeachment is necessary, despite her concerns that the policy priorities she came to Washington to work on — infrastructure in particular — would fall to the wayside.
While most House Democrats support some kind of impeachment action, according to NBC News, a handful of Democrats from vulnerable districts are tiptoeing around the impeachment part of the impeachment inquiry. “I’m for getting the facts and learning what happened,” Rep. Anthony Brindisi, New York Democrat, told The Washington Times.
At the core of the latest impeachment push is a whistleblower complaint reportedly tied to a phone call in which President Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate the business dealings of Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden’s son Hunter.
President Trump released on Wednesday a transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with Democrats claiming vindication and Republicans arguing innocence.
Mr. Van Drew sided with the GOP on that debate.
He told reporters that while the contents of the call were concerning, he didn’t see enough pressure to merit impeachment.
After a delay, the Trump administration delivered the whistleblower report to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
The allegations sparked a tidal wave of longtime impeachment holdouts to come forward and prompted Mrs. Pelosi to announce an official impeachment investigation.
The impeachment inquiry, spearheaded by six committees, doesn’t appear to be any different than what the Democrats are already doing. Not many details have emerged on how the process of the “umbrella approach” will operate.
One major detail that is lacking is a timeline. Many lawmakers say one hasn’t been established yet by leadership.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced a few weeks ago that he wanted to reach a decision on whether or not to move forward with articles of impeachment by the end of the year, but now lawmakers can’t say if that is still the schedule.
While many want to avoid putting an expiration date on the investigation, several others are hoping it will be done by the end of the year.
“Everything in government has a rhythm and I think that the fall is going to be our opportunity to try and identify the major high crimes and misdemeanors and articulate them,” Maryland Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin said.
Rep. Dean Phillips, a vulnerable freshman lawmaker from Minnesota, endorsed impeachment only recently but said he is concerned about the investigation bleeding into 2020.
“I think that it’s important for the country to see that this institution can operate effectively and efficiently and expeditiously,” he said. “And the reasons so many of us changed perspective last weekend was because we found this egregious and urgent and I think that should be reflected in the process. “I would be disappointed if [it’s] not by the end of the year,” he added.
Rep. Karen Bass of California, who has voted for impeachment before, warned that if Democrats allow the process to go into the election year, it gives Mr. Trump and the GOP an opportunity to attack them and cast the investigation as a political ploy.
Despite the concerns from some, many other Democrats argue the looming election shouldn’t be the focus.
“There are some times where you just have to say, you know, politics be where they are,” Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan told reporters. “If Congress is thinking about its political interest in trying to hold this president accountable, we’re definitely on the wrong page.”
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