WASHINGTON — An all but inevitable House floor vote to impeach President Trump is poised to come down to a few dozen moderate Democrats who, under heavy and sustained pressure from both sides of the debate, are staying steadfastly mum on their decision.
“I will not operate on anyone’s timeline,” said freshman Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., who is a prime target of GOP efforts to either kill impeachment or at least encourage Democratic defections. “I will not operate on pressure from anyone.”
Rose is among the 31 House Democrats from districts where Trump won in 2016. Those swing districts were critical to Democrats' winning control of the House last year, and now those members are needed by the party leadership if Trump is to become the third president ever impeached.
Rose announced he was against impeachment in the wake of the Russia report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but then supported the inquiry over Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Whether he and other swing-district Democrats would extend that support to impeachment itself remains unclear, and may continue to be right up until the floor vote.
“We have to give this the level of thought and analysis and judicious consideration that it is deserving of,” Rose told reporters Tuesday.
Fellow freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., also hasn’t said how she’ll vote. Slotkin, who penned an op-ed with six other freshman Democrats to help launch the impeachment inquiry, said her constituents expect her to make an objective decision.
“I’m not waking up in the morning looking for a golden poll,” she said Wednesday.
The House is expected to vote next week on two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democrats narrowly crafted the charges against Trump to focus on his pressure on Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Trump asked for investigations that could have influenced his 2020 reelection chances while the White House had a freeze on nearly $400 million in aid. Trump and his allies deny any quid pro quo tied to aid, and insist the discussions with Ukraine were "perfect."
A few Trump-district Democrats have been outspoken in their support of impeachment, including Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., said he speaks regularly to other swing-district Democrats and believes most will be joining him in voting for impeachment — even if they’ve stayed quiet.
“Not all of them have come out publicly. I think many of them would prefer to announce any decision in their districts,” Malinowski said.
“I think it's the right way to go,” he said of the narrowly crafted articles. “It's very easy for all of us ... to point to what President Trump did in extorting a foreign country to help him in the next election as symbolic of what he did in inviting a foreign country (Russia) to help him in 2016. So it's a great opportunity to talk about the full range of his abuses of power.”
The House has 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans and one independent. If all members are present and voting, Democrats would need 216 votes for impeachment and could afford about 17 defectors, assuming all Republicans will side with Trump.
Already two Democrats voted against launching the initial inquiry – Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, while independent Rep. Justin Amash joined with Democrats to secure 232 votes on Halloween to kick off impeachment proceedings.
Republicans are smelling blood. Right-leaning groups continue to target moderate Democrats and inundate them with advertising.
A leading spender in the effort, American Action Network, launched an $8.5 million TV impeachment ad blitz targeting Democratic members including Jared Golden of Maine, Susie Lee of Nevada, Slotkin of Michigan, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Elaine Luria of Virginia.
“Impeachment is going to be a political death sentence for every vulnerable Democrat — no matter how they vote,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams told Fox News. “Either they are going to alienate the independent voters they need or alienate their Democratic Trump-hating base, which they also need to win.”
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., got an earful at a recent town hall in her district, when some voters shouted at her for saying the allegations against Trump are “incredibly, incredibly serious.”
“It’s a lie. It’s all a lie,” one man shouted at the freshman pol.
WARNING: VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS PROFANITY
Help is on the way for these Democrats — namely from one very rich Democrat. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced this week he’d spend $10 million to protect vulnerable Democrats under attack from the GOP. The White House hopeful already spent $100 million to help Democrats win the majority and his latest donation was cheered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that seeks centrist legislation, also declined to say whether he’s supporting the articles of impeachment.
“I have no comment on that right now,” said Suozzi, who is facing a progressive challenger in a district that is considered safely Democratic.
A fellow Problem Solvers caucus ally Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., didn’t say how he’d vote on impeachment after failing in his long-shot effort to censure Trump instead.
Politico reported that Gottheimer on Monday tried to revive an idea of censuring Trump instead of filing articles of impeachment along with about 10 other vulnerable Democrats. Others seeking a lighter option were Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Anthony Brindisi of New York and Ben McAdams of Utah.
“I need to see all the facts. I’m not going to prejudge anything until we get every bit of information in and then I’ll make a decision,” Gottheimer said Wednesday.
Pelosi claimed Thursday she’s not pressuring moderate Democrats for votes.
“We are not whipping something like this. ... People need to come to their own conclusions,” Pelosi said.
Pressed again by reporters she said: "I'm not asking anyone what their vote is. This is a vote that people will have to come to their own conclusion on and the facts are clear — irrefutable,” she said.
“The fact is that we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States ... this has nothing to do with my concern about votes. People will vote the way they vote."
Fox News' Chad Pergram and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.