House Democratic leaders are quietly reaching out to the most vulnerable members of their caucus to gauge whether they would support a formal vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, according to multiple Democratic aides.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s office is leading the outreach and the topic is expected to be discussed at a closed-door leadership meeting Tuesday evening.
Democratic leaders are “getting a read on where these members are following a two-week recess,” according to an aide familiar with the discussion.
The vote would undermine a key Republican talking point — that Democrats’ inquiry isn’t valid because they haven’t held a floor vote, as in past presidential impeachment proceedings. It could also squeeze vulnerable Republicans *by forcing them to go on the record. Many Republicans, so far, have attempted* to stay away from the burgeoning scandal consuming the White House.
But the move isn’t without risk, particularly for vulnerable Democrats in pro-Trump districts. And it could open Democrats up to another front of GOP criticism, as Republicans demand more power in the investigation, including the ability to issue subpoenas and call their own witnesses.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top House Republicans have complained repeatedly that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has violated past precedent by refusing so far to hold a full House vote authorizing the inquiry.
“Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed — including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed,” McCarthy said in a letter to Pelosi earlier this month. “In addition, the swiftness and recklessness with which you have proceeded has already resulted in committee chairs attempting to limit minority participation in scheduled interviews, calling into question the integrity of such an inquiry.”
And White House Counsel Pat Cipollone vowed the administration wouldn’t cooperate in Democrats’ probe, saying the process was “illegitimate” and “constitutionally invalid” in the absence of an inquiry vote.
“In the history of our nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the president without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step,” Cipollone wrote to Pelosi.
Some Democrats have supported calls for a vote on the floor, hoping it could bolster their case in court as well as silencing their GOP critics. But others have argued that it is not necessary, dismissing Republican complaints that they’ve been cut out of the process.
"I don’t much care about the vote on the floor," said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), noting that he would vote for the inquiry if it came to the floor. "The point is that it’s not required under the rules and there is absolutely no right being denied to the Republicans."
The vast majority of the Democratic caucus has publicly declared support for the caucus’s impeachment push. But Pelosi and her lieutenants have so far resisted calls for an impeachment inquiry vote, which they’ve pointed out is not required by the Constitution or House rules.
“If we want to do it, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we don’t. But we’re certainly not going to do it because of the president,” Pelosi told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board earlier this month.
Just seven Democrats remain opposed to the impeachment inquiry: Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Colin Peterson (D-Minn.).
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine