Nearly half the Democrats in the House of Representatives support an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump — a key threshold that is still unlikely to be enough to nudge Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to reconsider her firm opposition to launching proceedings.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Although Pelosi has not indicated that support for impeachment proceedings by a majority of House Democrats would alter her view, supporters of an inquiry have suggested eclipsing the halfway mark among Democrats could bolster their efforts and cause public support for the effort to grow.
"The president's repeated abuses have brought American democracy to a perilous crossroads," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who threw in his support on Tuesday. "Following the guidance of the Constitution — which I have sworn to uphold — is the only way to achieve justice."
In recent days, other Democrats added their voice in support of impeachment, including: Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus; Jennifer Wexton, a freshman Democrat who flipped a seat in Virginia long held by Republicans; Jason Crow, an Iraq War veteran in another newly Democratic House seat in Colorado; and Nita Lowey, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The House's departure last Friday for a six-week summer recess was expected to make it difficult to keep up the momentum for launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump, but the flood of Democrats coming out in favor of opening a formal inquiry has suggested the month-long break has done nothing to cool down the matter.
This week, more than a half-dozen Democrats have announced they support an inquiry, and with at least 118 out of 235 declared supporters, the number of House Democrats who support the effort passed the halfway mark, sharply increasing pressure on Pelosi to begin the impeachment process she has thus far resisted.
A surprise announcement from the House Judiciary Committee that an impeachment investigation was essentially already underway has appeared to push more Democrats to come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. The No. 3 and No. 4 Democrats in the Senate — Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — also came out this week to do the same.
Murray, along with a group of Democrats from Washington, made the jump in favor of an inquiry on Sunday, saying they waited to hear directly from Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, who testified before Congress late last month that his report had not exonerated the president of wrongdoing.
Although Mueller's testimony was widely interpreted to have had less political peril than anticipated, his appearance reignited a push for impeachment proceedings among Democrats, who have been weighing the move since April.
Additionally, Trump's continued attacks on lawmakers of color, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., have inched some lawmakers to support impeachment. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who filed articles of impeachment against Trump on July 16 because of his racist comments about four freshman lawmakers of color, said simply rebuking the president was not working.
"The President's shameful comments about Congressman Cummings make it evident that his bigotry is not going away," Green tweeted Sunday. "We can no longer tolerate it and condemnation by the House of Representatives clearly wasn't enough. We must impeach."
But Pelosi's concerns about impeachment proceedings against Trump are about more than math. She has long argued that impeachment does not have public support or strong bipartisan backing, warning that moving forward with proceedings could cost Democrats the presidency — and control of the House of Representatives in 2020. Additionally, she has expressed concern that impeachment in the House would send the question to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump would likely be acquitted, thus allowing the president to take a victory lap ahead of his re-election campaign.
"He knows it's not a good idea to be impeached, but the silver lining for him is then, he believes, that he would be exonerated by the United States Senate," Pelosi said in May.
Pelosi has advocated for a slow and methodical approach to holding Trump accountable, urging her caucus to proceed with its oversight investigations and legal fights to obtain Trump's financial records, as well as testimony from some of Mueller's key witnesses.
“My position has always been: Whatever decision we make in that regard has to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts,” she said last month. “It's about the Congress, the Constitution and the courts."