Whatever happened to trying to impeach President Donald Trump? As House Democrats begin laying out the vision for their new majority, that item is noticeably missing from the to-do list and firmly on the margins.
The agenda for now includes spending on public works projects, lowering health care costs and increasing oversight of the administration.
It’s the balance that Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to strike in the new Congress between those on her party’s left flank who are eager to confront the president, and her instinct to prioritize the kitchen-table promises that Democrats made to voters who elected them to office.
“We shouldn’t impeach the president for political reasons and we shouldn’t not impeach the president for political reasons,” Pelosi recently told The Associated Press.
The California lawmaker, who hopes to lead Democrats as House speaker come January, calls impeachment a “divisive activity” that needs to be approached with bipartisanship. “If the case is there, then that should be self-evident to Democrats and Republicans,” she said.
Those pressing for impeachment acknowledge they don’t expect action on Day One of the new majority, but they do want to see Democrats start laying the groundwork for proceedings.
“We’re for impeachment. We’re not for get-sworn-in-on-Jan.-1-and-start-taking-votes,” said Kevin Mack, the lead strategist for billionaire Tom Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign. “Our argument is the Constitution outlines a process to remove a lawless president.”
In a new ad, Steyer says Democrats “just need the will” to act. He says he’s calling on Americans to join the 6 million who have already signed on to his group to “give Congress the courage to act.”
“The American people are tired of being told to wait,” Mack said. “Our argument to Congress is you are a co-equal branch of government. It’s time to do what is morally correct.”
Twice over the past two years since Trump was elected, Democrats have tried to force votes on impeachment proceedings, winning a high-water mark of more than 60 supporters, far from the 218 needed.
Republicans are counting on, and possibly even hoping for, impeachment fervor to overtake Democrats, leading them astray from campaign promises or dealmaking with Trump.
“We know the Democrats have a plan: They want to disrupt, they want to try to impeach,” said GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California after winning the GOP’s internal election to serve as minority leader in the new Congress. He warned that Democrats were laying the groundwork to impeach Trump.
Pelosi has made it clear the new majority will not engage in what she calls a “scattershot” approach to investigating the administration.