Hoyer predicts House Democrats will gain seats next year

Hoyer predicts House Democrats will gain seats next year
© Greg Nash

The second highest-ranking House Democrat predicted Tuesday that the party will gain seats at the polls next year, despite the controversy swirling around impeachment and the long list of vulnerable Democrats facing tough races.

Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in House scheduled to return for votes in late June House pushes back schedule to pass spending bills MORE (D-Md.) declined to forecast a number but said Democrats are hoping to net six seats in Texas alone, where six Republicans are retiring at the end of this session.

"We're going to pick up seats next year," Hoyer said emphatically during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Hoyer also suggested that impeachment, rather than hurting vulnerable Democrats in the elections, would play to their advantage and accused Republicans of politicizing a serious issue.

"The greatest protection these members will have — all members will have — is that they vote their conviction and the Constitution. Not their politics," he said.

Hoyer's prediction came a day before Democrats are scheduled to vote on two articles of impeachment targeting President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE for his handling of foreign policy in Ukraine. The first article charges the president with abuse of power, for pressing Ukrainian leaders to find dirt on his domestic political rivals; the second alleges he obstructed Congress as Democrats sought to investigate the affair.

Public surveys indicate the country is split roughly in half on the question of whether Trump should be removed from office. But Republicans remain overwhelmingly supportive of the president, and there are 31 Democrats representing districts carried by Trump in 2016.

Against that math, GOP operatives are licking their chops over the prospect of using impeachment as a cudgel to attack centrist Democrats in battleground districts next year.

Even so, those political considerations have so far done little to threaten the approval of the two impeachment articles in the House. Instead, those same vulnerable Democrats are emerging, one by one, to announce their support for both of them, all but ensuring easy passage when they hit the floor on Wednesday.

Rep. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillGun control group rolls out House endorsements Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D-N.J.), a Navy veteran, was one such lawmaker, saying Tuesday that Trump's dealings with Ukraine left her no choice.

"It became clear to me that he did, in fact, withhold critical military aid from a security partner in order to investigate — or attempt to have a foreign power investigate — an opponent of his in our democratic election process," she told reporters.

Still, Sherrill said voters in her district — which sided with Trump by less than a point in 2016 — have been supportive of her reflective approach to the divisive issue.

"We hear all kinds of opinions, from every different angle," she said. "But I think what I'm hearing most is, 'I just want you to approach this with integrity, and I want you to be thoughtful about it.'"

Hoyer emphasized that Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.), are not putting any pressure on lawmakers ahead of Wednesday's votes.

"This is an issue that every member has to decide for himself or herself," he said. "I have not asked a single member, nor has Pelosi asked a single member, to vote for or against."

He also suggested Democrats would not send the articles directly to the Senate following House passage, but nor would they sit on them indefinitely.

"I don't think that that's the path we'll follow. But that does not mean that we will immediately deliver," Hoyer said. "There are considerations related to other legislation. As I understand the rules of the Senate, once they receive the articles they have to act. They have to go into trial; they can't do any other work."

"So that will play into that consideration."