Swing-seat Democrats oppose impeachment, handing Pelosi leverage

Vulnerable House Democrats in swing districts are resisting pressure to back the launching of an impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE.

Even as a majority of the House Democratic Caucus backs impeachment, many of the “majority makers” in swing districts have stayed on the sidelines.

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Only 13 of the 55 Democrats on the House GOP campaign arm’s 2020 target list publicly back an impeachment inquiry. And just two of the 31 House Democrats in districts carried by President Trump in 2016 back one: Reps. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas Democrats demand Esper explicitly ban Confederate flag and allow Pride, Native Nations flags MORE (N.H.) and Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodWomen of color flex political might Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Underwood takes over as chair of House cybersecurity panel MORE (Ill.). 

Impeachment advocates have been pressing Democratic Reps. Conor Lamb (Pa.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerCOVID-19 talks hit crucial stretch Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Vulnerable Democrats tell Pelosi COVID-19 compromise 'essential' MORE (N.J.), Andy Kim (N.J.), Colin Allred (Texas), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research MORE (N.J.) and others representing swing districts at events in recent weeks, but so far none of them have come out in favor of impeachment. 

This opposition has handed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns House rebuffs GOP lawmaker's effort to remove references to Democrats in Capitol Grassley says disclosing Trump's tax records without authorization could violate law MORE (D-Calif.) leverage as she argues within her caucus against impeachment.

Pelosi has said it does not make sense to go forward with impeachment if supporters do not have the 218 votes necessary to win a vote on the floor — let alone the 67 Senate votes required for a conviction. Allies have warned an impeachment proceeding could backfire on Democrats just as it did for Clinton-era Republicans.  

Still, the Speaker is expected to come under a new wave of pressure from progressives backing an impeachment inquiry when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week. Progressive groups have sought to build the case for impeachment, and lawmakers such as Lamb and Kim have been on the front lines of the fight.

Kim has been pressed at multiple town halls over the summer recess to back impeachment proceedings, but each time the freshman lawmaker called for a methodical approach.

On July 30, as constituents shouted “Why is it taking so long?” and “Do your job!” Kim said that “the committees are telling me they have what they need to move forward. Granted, I agree with you it’s not moving fast enough,” according to the Burlington County Times

At another town hall on Aug. 14, a constituent told Kim that she “would like to start with a clean slate,” adding that “the fish rots from the head down. I don’t want to be part of that rot anymore.”

Kim told the town hall, “I know that you’re angry and upset. I understand that. But I want to make sure we understand that oversight or impeachment are not going to wish away a lot of the problems that we face.”

“I certainly get the message loud and clear how people in this room feel,” Kim added, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lamb similarly defended his position at a town hall on Aug. 20, telling constituents that “I am not convinced now, nor have I been, that we have met the bar for impeachment.”

“I think that’s an extremely high bar, but I’m continuing to follow these investigations as much as I can,” Lamb added.

A coalition of liberal activist organizations including Indivisible, MoveOn, Need to Impeach and Stand Up America have been pushing impeachment supporters to show up at Democratic lawmakers’ events over the House’s six-week summer recess to press them on whether they think Trump should be impeached.

“In the past few weeks, we’ve seen more and more representatives publicly come out in favor of impeachment. This did not happen on its own. It happened because members of all our grass-roots organizations came out and demanded action,” said Ezra Levin, the co-executive director of Indivisible.

Thirteen Democratic lawmakers in competitive races do back impeachment, but all but Underwood and Pappas represent districts that are marginally more left-leaning and were carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton after debate: 'Everyone better vote' Hillary Clinton: 'Black Lives Matter' is 'very profoundly a theological statement' House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power MORE in 2016: Reps. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - First lady casts Trump as fighter for the 'forgotten' Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers introduce resolution condemning QAnon | US Cyber Command leader vows to 'defend forward' in protecting nation from cyberattacks MORE (N.J.), Katie Porter (Calif.), Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellDisinformation, QAnon efforts targeting Latino voters ramp up ahead of presidential election Florida Democrat asks FBI to investigate anti-Semitic, racist disinformation Hispanic Caucus members embark on 'virtual bus tour' with Biden campaign MORE (Fla.), Sean CastenSean CastenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (Ill.), Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaUS Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog to weigh probe of Trump advancements on Pebble Mine | Interior finalizes public lands HQ move out West over congressional objections | EPA to issue methane rollback: report Watchdog to weigh probe of Trump administration advancements of Pebble Mine MORE (Calif.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickArizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran wins Democratic primary Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick wins Democratic primary Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (Ariz.), Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote House Democrats to include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid MORE (Ore.), Jason CrowJason CrowClark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Trump-Afghan deal passes key deadline, but peace elusive Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (Colo.), Mike Levin (Calif.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonHouse advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's rally risk | Biden ramps up legal team | Biden hits Trump over climate policy MORE (Va.) and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierPelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Washington Rep. Kim Schrier wins primary US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis MORE (Wash.). 

Pappas became the first Democrat representing a Trump district to announce support for an impeachment inquiry on July 26. That came on the same day that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee filed an application in court to obtain grand jury material underlying Mueller’s report, arguing it was necessary in order to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

Since then, Judiciary Committee Democrats have been framing their months-long investigations of the Trump administration as an effort to determine whether to recommend impeachment articles. They argue an impeachment inquiry is effectively underway without taking a formal vote calling it as such.

Some vulnerable Democrats are now expressing support for the impeachment process by merely saying they back what the committee is already doing.

Underwood, who had been targeted by impeachment activists, issued a statement on Aug. 20 saying that “I support this investigation.”

Underwood acknowledged in an interview with MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” that she’s been getting asked about impeachment at town halls in her district in recent weeks.

“I gotta tell you, the No. 1 issue that's been raised at my town halls this week: Medicare, the price of prescription drugs, what's going on with Social Security. These are the issues that are top of mind for so many folks. But during these conversations, I often do get asked about impeachment,” Underwood said.