House Democrats and 'GOT' fans share something in common: they want to change the script
However, a question remains: would a change in the narrative make the outcome better?
It wasn’t long ago that the chances of impeaching President Trump were rather low. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., all but ruled out impeachment. But the chances that Democrats could launch an impeachment probe of the president spiked dramatically this week.
Democrats were buoyed by the ruling by a federal judge that the accounting firm Mazars must hand over the president’s financial records, complying with a House subpoena for the documents. It could be argued that the ruling could have mollified some pushes for impeachment. But the decision actually intensified demands for impeachment among some House Democrats. Then the Justice Department told the House Judiciary Committee that former White House Counsel Don McGahn wouldn’t testify this week, defying a subpoena.
“She isn’t going to be able to hold off impeachment much longer. It’s coming to a head” predicted one senior House Democrat of Pelosi. The lawmaker asked that they not be identified.
The Democrat argued that Pelosi would switch her position on impeachment “within the next two weeks” and added “the vast majority of us are for impeachment.”
House Democrats engaged in an animated debate about how leaders should proceed Monday night. Pelosi huddled with her top leadership brass and Nadler until 9:40 p.m. on Monday. When he emerged from the conclave, a cadre of reporters asked the New York Democrat about impeachment for Mr. Trump.
“He’s making it very difficult to avoid thinking about that,” replied Nadler.
Pelosi exited the Capitol for the night a few minutes later.
“There’s no divide,” said Pelosi when asked about divergent views among Democrats on impeachment. “We’re fine. We’re good.”
On Monday night, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., leader of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) ramped up his impeachment advocacy.
“There’s a tremendous level of frustration at our inability to get witnesses and documents that are necessary to do our work,” said Cicilline.
But Cicilline stopped short of saying Pelosi should shift her impeachment stance.
“She’s the Speaker of the House and she’ll make those decisions,” said Cicilline of Pelosi. “I think the Speaker is very responsive to the caucus and she’ll make her judgement on where she thinks the caucus is.”
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., is running for president. He says “it is past time” for a debate about impeachment.
“What about just doing the right thing?” asked Moulton. “What about fulfilling our Congressional, Constitutional duty? I understand the politics are tricky and that’s a fair question. But I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.”
So let’s evaluate where thing stand:
The Judiciary Committee voted to cite Attorney General William Barr with a contempt of Congress resolution a few weeks ago. The full House has yet to vote to slap Barr with contempt. Congress is scheduled to abandon Washington on Thursday afternoon until early June. So the House won’t consider the Barr contempt issue for weeks. The Judiciary Committee hasn’t scheduled a meeting to hold McGahn in contempt.
Pelosi is expected to deliver a “status report” to the Democratic Caucus on Wednesday and entertain views from rank-and-file members about what’s next.
Liberal Democrats have long argued for impeachment. But now some Democrats who represent battleground districts or those which are friendly to Mr. Trump are starting to chatter about impeachment.
“I think there is a growing amount of support,” said Progressive Caucus leader & Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
Many Democrats think they can go to the mat with the president and still push other items on their agenda, ranging from health care to better wages.
“What’s covered in the district is different from what’s on cable television,” said Jayapal. “And it’s not like this goes away even if we don’t open an impeachment inquiry.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., flipped her district from red to blue in 2016, and represents a district with GOP leanings.
“The danger we should be most-focused on is undermining our own democracy,” said Murphy when asked about impeachment. Murphy added that Pelosi is “counseling patience to let this play out.”
This is a struggle for Democrats. The party is torn between trying to stand up for the institution of Congress and voters thinking they’ve gone overboard. There could be a political backlash.
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., is a freshman who won what had historically been a GOP district. Crow represents the type of district Democrats must maintain if they are to keep their grip on the House. Crow argues that Democrats can strike a balance.
“The idea that we can’t walk and chew gum is an idea that I reject,” said Crow. “There isn’t a binary choice here.”
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., narrowly flipped her seat to Democratic control last year. Slotkin says Democrats must continue “chewing the gum.” In other words, don’t allow investigations and impeachment to sidetrack conversations about the cost of prescription drugs.
“We risk losing focus on the issues that help people in their everyday lives,” said Slotkin.
But know this: Any devolution into impeachment will devour Washington. There won’t be bandwidth to discuss economic issues or health care – the “bread and butter” issues Democrats like Crow and Slotkin must champion to hold their seats. Go back to 1998 when House Republicans impeached President Clinton. Few subjects could keep pace with impeachment. That’s why many Democrats know it’s risky to pursue the impeachment strategy.
“The caucus wants to proceed methodically,” observed House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
And that’s why the decision to move ahead with impeachment could hinge on next year’s election prospects.
“To say there’s no political calculus would not be honest for any of us in the Congress,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Game of Thrones fans may demand a re-write. Liberal Democrats may demand a change in the script, too. Democratic leaders could find themselves wrestling with impeachment. Democrats may need a way to distract attention from impeaching President Trump.
There’s an easy remedy for that. Just leave a coffee cup or a few water bottles lying around the set.