Neither life nor politics are fair – which is demonstrated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s current situation: whether or not to allow the House of Representatives to send articles of impeachment to the Senate.
After all, President Trump was the target of a special prosecutor who could not determine whether or not the president committed obstruction of justice. Yet, Pelosi is the most uncomfortable. She is caught between progressives who want the president impeached yesterday and moderates who don’t want any discussion of impeachment at all.
The statement by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday certainly won’t help matters. In fact, his unwillingness to testify on Capitol Hill is only going to further enrage progressives who believe that the Trump administration is stonewalling their investigation.
Now, the Speaker and her leadership team are trying to prevent an ugly civil war in the caucus.
It is obvious that Speaker Pelosi wants to destroy the President, without having to actually impeach him. Formally impeaching Trump would endanger the Democratic moderates she needs to retain control of the House. Worse, in the Senate, the President will win an overwhelming vote to reject the articles of impeachment.
If the House impeaches the president, progressives will celebrate a symbolic victory but it will be pyrrhic – at least politically. Republicans will be energized by beating back an attempt by Democrats to remove their commander in chief.
Looking to the 2020 election, a failed impeachment could ensure another term for Donald Trump, a missed attempt by Democrats to take the Senate, and a threat to the Democratic control of the House. The president is aware of this situation, which is why his administration refuses to comply with subpoenas from House Committees controlled by Democrats. He is daring them to impeach him.
Yet, no matter how many times Pelosi explains this scenario to progressives in her caucus, it will fall on deaf ears. This is because the progressive Democrats are worried that if they fail to secure an impeachment vote, it will cost them politically. After all, back home, their voters demand impeachment.
Without an impeachment vote, progressives worry they could get a primary challenger; a candidate who could promise to impeach the president when elected to Congress.
This dynamic where Pelosi opposes impeachment to help Democratic moderates stay in office, but puts progressives at risk of losing their primary election, is an untenable long-term position.
Pelosi needs a way to pacify the progressives demanding the president be removed from office, while not going down the impeachment road. Here is a way she can do both:
If progressives on Capitol Hill can convince 15 Republican Senators to agree to vote for impeachment, Pelosi should agree to bring up articles of impeachment, and that she will work with progressives to try and get the five more Republican Senators constitutionally-required to remove the president from the White House.
The campaign to convince those Republican Senators can be partially waged through investigations, and going to court to force the Trump administration to comply with subpoenas.
By offering this compromise, the Speaker is not refusing the impeach the president. But rather, making a promise to impeach Donald Trump only if there is a real chance that he will be removed from office.
Keep in mind, as of today, not a single Republican Senator would vote in favor of ending Donald Trump’s presidency. The only Republican who believes the president’s actions investigated by Robert Mueller are impeachable is Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan. But he serves in the House and has no vote in the Senate, where the president’s fate will ultimately be decided.
When Congressman Amash made his pronouncement, not a single other Republican – even those who viscerally dislike the president – followed. No surprise, the president enjoys a 90 percent approval rate from Republicans.
Speaker Pelosi, by agreeing to impeach the president only if there is a realistic chance the Senate will convict him, will not pacify all of the progressives in Congress or their voters back home. But, it can slow the impeachment talk. It also gives progressives on Capitol Hill some political cover by forcing progressive voters to acknowledge reality: they cannot remove the president from office unless they can first convince a lot of Republican Senators to do the same.