I was asked the other day whether Democrats’ efforts to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump are on life support. The answer is no, definitely not. It’s hard to say what will happen with impeachment, but one thing we can say is that the number of House Democrats who support it is steadily climbing — and diversifying.
Our Washington Post tally of who supports opening an impeachment proceeding into Trump counts 71 House Democrats, or 72 lawmakers total if you include Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich). That’s roughly 30 percent of all House Democrats, which is no small number.
For comparison, the influential conservative Freedom Caucus, which stopped so many budget bills when Republicans were in control, has about 30 members.
The kind of lawmakers who have recently come around to impeachment are also noteworthy. As of Wednesday, there are three potentially vulnerable lawmakers on the pro-impeachment side. Reps. Sean Casten (Ill.), Katie Porter (Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (N.J.) all knocked off Republicans in 2018 to win their seats, and despite the political risks that come with supporting impeachment proceedings, they have all decided to anyway.
Casten and Porter announced their decisions this week. Lawmakers, Casten told the Chicago Sun-Times, “need to use every tool in our power to get those facts” about Trump, and impeachment is a powerful tool for that.
“When faced with a crisis of this magnitude, I cannot in a clean conscience ignore my duty to defend the Constitution,” Porter said.
On Wednesday, a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), came out in support of impeachment proceedings. She’s not from a Republican-leaning district, but she is in Pelosi’s leadership circle and represents a defection from it. Pelosi has argued that impeachment is the wrong path for her party to take.
Schakowsky, like Casten, has a more practical reason for supporting it. She argues that starting impeachment proceedings will strengthen the Democrats’ case against Trump and help them obtain information in their various investigations and court battles. (More on how that works here.)
I wrote recently that Pelosi is not fazed by the growing calls for impeachment among Democrats, because most of them aren’t the lawmakers who matter to her, at least from the perspective of keeping the House majority. That’s still mostly true. The majority of vulnerable Democrats either do not support impeachment or have kept quiet about their true feelings. The battle for the House will be fought in districts Democrats hold in Kansas, Iowa and Georgia, not the most liberal parts of New York City, which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) — a leading voice for impeachment — represents. In the rest of the nation, impeachment is not a popular idea.
Pelosi allies told my Post colleagues that even if a majority of House Democrats were to support impeachment, she would not budge, so long as the American public doesn’t support it. That’s her prerogative; as speaker, she gets to decide what the House votes on and what it doesn’t.
But Congress is both beholden to public sentiment and plays a powerful role in forming it. The number of lawmakers who support impeachment is growing even as Pelosi makes her case that impeachment is not the right course of action for the party, even as she gives lawmakers outlets to express their frustration with Trump — such as voting some of his current and former officials in contempt — and even as House Democrats win court battles to gain information from Trump for non-impeachment investigations.
Pelosi is doing everything she can to stop impeachment in its tracks, and still it plods forward — most recently thanks to lawmakers who don’t fit the typical mold of impeachment supporters. That’s notable.