In the vote, a majority of House Democrats joined with House Republicans to vote against moving forward on articles of impeachment filed by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas). This wasn’t a vote on whether to impeach Trump. It was a procedural motion, like the first step of the first step to even considering impeachment proceedings. And it failed by a vote of 332 to 95.
Let’s dig a little deeper into that vote. We know that 86 House Democrats support beginning impeachment proceedings into Trump, because they’ve said so. Based on Wednesday’s vote, another 10 seem open to considering it by at least voting to continue the procedural motion on impeachment. That’s more than one-third of all House Democrats.
But 137 of the 235 House Democrats voted against this procedural vote of an impeachment resolution. Translated: A majority didn’t even want to consider this.
In fact, as The Post’s Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report, House Democratic leaders, Republican leaders and the White House were all on the same page about how to deal with this vote. They could have voted to send it to committees, where it might languish (or not). They decided not to even do that much.
House Democrats were willing to take the historic steps of condemning a president’s tweets and to hold sitting Cabinet secretaries in contempt, but they still draw the line at impeachment. That’s telling about where the party is at, even as support for impeachment slowly builds.
This was a victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who thinks impeachment is a waste of political capital and could cost Democrats their House majority in 2020. But she’s not out of the woods yet. There are a couple of things on the horizon that could change this dynamic. Particularly:
The Mueller hearing: Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will testify Wednesday in front of two House committees about his report. He’s expected to basically just read from the report, which is already public. But House Democrats think hearing from his mouth all the things Mueller found Trump did wrong — he found 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice — will make his findings much more salient to the American public. After Mueller gave a rare news conference talking about the report, a number of House Democrats said they support impeachment. Could a longer Mueller presence in front of the cameras convince a majority of House Democrats to support impeachment proceedings?
More Democrats from Republican-leaning districts support impeachment: Right now, the Democrats who matter to Pelosi by and large don’t support impeachment. Those would be the Democrats who flipped Republican districts last year to give Democrats the majority, in states like Kansas and Iowa. This week, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz), who represents a Republican-leaning district, said she supports impeachment proceedings (the first step to impeachment). But she is just one of five Democrats in this group to support it. The rest of her more moderate colleagues made up the core of the 137 Wednesday night who voted to table Green’s impeachment resolution.
Public opinion sways independents: Americans’ views on impeachment has remained pretty steady since the release of the Mueller report: Even though a majority thinks Trump lied, a majority doesn’t support impeachment. Could Trump’s recent tweet fracas change people’s minds, especially among coveted independent voters who will help decide control of Congress in 2020? Don’t count on it. Public opinion about the Mueller report and how damning it is for Trump has remain split along party lines, and there’s no evidence that Trump targeting four minority congresswoman has suddenly shaken that loose. In fact, a new poll suggests Trump attacking these women was a politically popular thing to do among his base.
Congress’s other Trump investigations get held up in court: Trump is stonewalling more than 20 congressional investigations into him and his administration, and the House is taking him to court for it. So far, it’s winning those fights. Trump has already lost the first rounds of two separate legal battles to try to keep his financial details out of control of Congress.
But if the tide suddenly turns against the House in the appeals, many Democratic lawmakers think they may have no choice but to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. It could strengthen their case in court, and it’s just the only tool they have left to try to executive oversight over the executive branch.
As Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) recently told Bade and DeBonis:
“At some point, as every committee gets stonewalled,” he warned. “The case for impeachment as a mechanism to get what we need . . . gets stronger and stronger.”
But until that, or any of the above things happen, it seems like liberals’ impeachment push is, well, tabled.