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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 TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech 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 PappasPappas fends off challenge from ex-Trump official in NH Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas MORE (N.H.) and Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodOvernight Health Care: Biden asked Fauci to serve as chief medical adviser | COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo says she won't be Biden's HHS secretary Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Trump's cyber firing stirs outrage MORE (Ill.). 

Impeachment advocates have been pressing Democratic Reps. Conor Lamb (Pa.), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Democrat Gottheimer wins reelection in New Jersey Cook Political Report shifts 8 more House races toward Democrats MORE (N.J.), Andy Kim (N.J.), Colin Allred (Texas), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillJudge whose son was killed by gunman: 'Federal judiciary is under attack' Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales 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 PelosiOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package 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 and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE in 2016: Reps. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiFive things to know about Antony Blinken, Biden's pick for State Malinowski beats back GOP challenge in New Jersey House race Phil Murphy says no coronavirus outbreaks in New Jersey linked to Trump fundraiser MORE (N.J.), Katie Porter (Calif.), Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread The Memo: Democrats see warning signs beyond 2020 Florida Democrat breaks down loss: 'It's not just about socialism' MORE (Fla.), Sean CastenSean CastenChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch The Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (Ill.), Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaCalifornia was key factor in House GOP's 2020 success Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day MORE (Calif.), Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickDemocrat O'Halleran wins reelection in Arizona House race Arizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran wins Democratic primary Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick wins Democratic primary MORE (Ariz.), Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats ask GAO to study COVID-19 air travel risks Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? On the Trail: Five House results illustrate a politically divided America MORE (Ore.), Jason CrowJason CrowGiffords launches national Gun Owners for Safety group to combat the NRA House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Lawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown MORE (Colo.), Mike Levin (Calif.), Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonVirginia voter registration website back up after outage on last day to register House advances bill aimed at imports tied to Uighur forced labor This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda MORE (Va.) and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierRep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief 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.