Congress

House Democrats thread the needle on impeachment in hometown town halls

The impeachment caucus now includes half of the Democratic members of the House

Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said he does not support an impeachment inquiry, but agreed with a constituent who said that investigations are not moving fast enough at a town hall this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats back in their districts for a six-week-long congressional recess have walked a tightrope on whether to impeach the president, according to local reports. 

The impeachment caucus now includes half of the Democratic members of the House.

[A new flood of Democrats call for impeachment proceedings, but does it matter?]

Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, where an impeachment push could originate. He declared his support for an impeachment inquiry in a Sun-Sentinel op-ed Thursday. But Deutch threaded the needle between the pro-impeachment camp and the party’s more reluctant members by arguing that a vote to formally initiate impeachment is not necessary. 

“The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole authority of impeachment. Officially launching an impeachment inquiry has never been a prerequisite to using that authority,” Deutch wrote. 

[Judiciary Democrats say they are effectively in impeachment inquiry already]

Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Al Green of Texas introduced a bill in March directing the committee to initiate an impeachment inquiry, but that sort of mandate is no longer required under House rules, Deutch argues. 

“Times have changed. In 2015, Republican leaders gave committee chairs broad subpoena powers — powers that Chairman Nadler retains today,” Deutch writes. “No additional step is required. No magic words need to be uttered on the House floor. No vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry is necessary.” 

Still, voting for a formal impeachment inquiry could strengthen Congress’ power to investigative alleged lawbreaking by President Donald Trump. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an early backer of the bill to initiate an impeachment inquiry, said in an interview with Hot97 in New York that   she spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during their one-on-one meeting last week about the challenge of corralling 218 votes. 

“We talked about the debate among the caucus on impeachment. And this is the thing: when people want to push to impeach, she needs the votes. She needs the votes for it. First and foremost as the speaker, she's a vote counter,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So our job is to really pressure a lot of the members.”

With the caucus in flux, members are taking the temperature of their districts on the issue during the August break from legislative work. 

Rep. Salud Carbajal of California released an online poll to his central coast constituents this week asking if they endorse impeachment proceedings ahead of an Aug. 8 town hall, KYET reported

When the topic of impeachment was raised at a town hall this week, Rep. Abigail Spanberger said the intraparty divide is not a pressing concern of her Richmond-area district, CNN reported. 

Spanberger was asked about “the soap opera of Congress,” and answered, “I grew up on the ‘Real World,’” a reference to the MTV reality show. “I don’t need to live it.”

Rep. Andy Kim was peppered with questions by constituents eager for the president to be impeached during a town hall in his New Jersey district, the Burlington County Times reported. But the New Jersey Democrat held off endorsing an inquiry, saying committee investigations are ongoing. 

“Granted, I agree with you it’s not moving fast enough,” Kim said in response to one constituent. 

Just one attendee at Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s 100-person town hall asked about impeachment, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Murphy argued there is a “high threshold” for impeachment. 

“I believe impeachment will assuredly consume us all,” she replied. “And basically grind our nation to a halt.”

Rep. Jared Golden also brushed off questions about an impeachment inquiry in an interview with the Bangor Daily News after he received no questions about the issue at a town hall in his north Maine district. But Golden said that foreign interference in U.S. elections is “a really serious issue.”

Spanberger, Kim and Golden are all first-term members of Congress who captured competitive districts in the midterm elections last year. House Democrats’ campaign wing, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has sought to highlight the lawmakers’ efforts to meet regularly with constituents in their districts. 

Nine of the 44 members of the DCCC’s Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents now support impeachment proceedings.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. 

Correction: A former version of this story incorrectly described Rep. Stephanie Murphy as a “freshman.” She was elected in 2016.

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