Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk

Senate Democrats want the House to cool it on impeachment. 

They see an impeachment drive as hurting more than helping their efforts to win back the Senate majority and generally back Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Lawmakers 'failed us' says ICE chief Pelosi, Democratic leaders seek to quell liberal revolt over border bill MORE's (D-Calif.) efforts to keep a lid on the issue.

Even Senate Democrats running for president who back impeachment aren’t pressing Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (N.Y.) to take a more aggressive approach to the issue.

ADVERTISEMENT

Democratic senators say the subject of impeachment rarely even comes up in caucus-wide meetings and that it distracts from issues like health care they see as more important to voters.

“I don’t think we should go there now,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Young activists press for change in 2020 election MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I was here for the Clinton impeachment, and after it was over I wished it never had happened. I think we ought to be very, very cautious with that kind of thing."

“Everybody does what they do based on their own desires, but I don’t find it helpful,” she said of fellow Democrats who are pushing for the beginning of an impeachment inquiry.

Schumer, who is not shy about criticizing Trump, has stuck with Pelosi’s line that more investigation needs to be done.

“My view is that we ought to get all the facts out, the way the House is doing now with Leader Pelosi,” he said. “If you have a little patience all the information will come out and then decisions will be made.”

Democrats already face an uphill fight in winning back the Senate.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, and Democrats must defend Sen. Doug Jones (D) in Republican-leaning Alabama. Their best opportunities for picking up seats may be in Maine and Colorado, where Trump lost to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Top Trump ally says potential Amash presidential bid could be problematic in Michigan Chaotic Trump transition leaks: Debates must tackle how Democrats will govern differently MORE in 2016, and in Arizona.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinRepublicans, Trump Jr. signal support for embattled West Virginia governor Critics say Interior's top lawyer came 'close to perjury' during Hill testimony The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump takes heat for remarks on help from foreign governments MORE (D-W.Va.) argues that moving ahead with impeachment proceedings would be a waste of time given the Senate Republican majority.

Manchin said House Democrats pushing for impeachment proceedings “ought to come over and talk to their Republican colleagues” in the Senate, “because they’re going to have to have some votes there.”

It would require a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, to convict the president in the Senate.

“There’s no appetite whatsoever,” Manchin said of impeachment.

He also said it would divide the country unnecessarily.

“Impeachment and all that goes with impeachment wouldn’t be done any quicker than the election would be done so it’s crazy. Makes no sense at all,” he said.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Democrats aim to block defense money from being used on Trump border wall MORE (D-Mont.) said talk of impeachment doesn’t come up in caucus meetings.

“I’ve never heard it,” he said. “It’s getting the cart ahead of the horse. You got to get the information, you got to do a study, you got to release a law report, you got to get the underlying documents."

“I just think it’s a little premature,” he added.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinNegotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Schumer calls for delay on passage of defense bill amid Iran tensions MORE (Ill.) said there’s little to no chance that House-passed impeachment articles would win much Republican support in the Senate.

He argued that relatively few House Democrats are actually pushing to begin impeachment.

“I think we need to work on things that convince them that a Democratic Congress is in their best interest,” he said of voters in the 2020 elections. “If you ask me, the biggest issue of the last week is Alabama” and the ban it enacted on abortion without exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

There are exceptions.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (I-Vt.), a progressive presidential candidate, told CNN on Thursday that “it may well be time for an impeachment inquiry to begin” if the president “continues to not understand the Constitution of the United States” and the “separation of powers.”

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAbigail Disney: 'We're creating a super-class' of rich people Is Big Tech biased? The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (D-Mass.), another White House hopeful, delivered a Senate floor speech on May 7 calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

Other Democratic candidates are taking a slightly different approach.

“I wouldn’t tell them what to do. I respect their perspective and opinion,” said Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (D-Calif.), who has otherwise expressed support for beginning the impeachment process.  

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandRules for first Democratic primary debates announced Juan Williams: Warren on the rise 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown MORE (D-N.Y.), another presidential candidate, said she agrees with Pelosi and Schumer that more investigating needs to be done.

“From my perspective, I think it’s really important to have a process. And the process that we’ve started is to try to get testimony from Barr and McGahn and Mueller,” she said, referring to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations EXCLUSIVE: Trump declines to say he has confidence in FBI director MORE, former White House counsel Don McGahn and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE.

Gillibrand noted that Trump has blocked McGahn from testifying, but said Democrats have begun contempt proceedings and “the goal is to get the facts.”

“So I think we’re just going to keep proceeding to getting those facts.”

A Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on the private views of colleagues said few colleagues support Sanders’s call to begin impeachment proceedings unless Trump starts cooperating with Congress.

“There’s very little support for moving forward with impeachment, but I believe there’s a lot of support for being aggressive with oversight and doing the hearings,” the lawmaker said.

The senator said that many Senate Democratic colleagues don’t want the 2020 elections to be a debate about impeachment instead of issues they believe would be more effective in moving votes, such as protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions and safeguarding abortion rights.

“The reality is we’re only six months away from starting votes in the presidential election, so how do we want to spend those six months? Do we want to spend them honing our message like we did in 2018?” the senator said. “It takes a long time to drill all that stuff in. As soon as you go to impeachment, that dominates the entire agenda and then that becomes the presidential campaign.”

They fear that Trump would quickly turn the table on them.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE is brilliant at making himself a victim,” the senator said. “Pelosi is an amazing leader. I think a lot of other leaders would have caved by now and just gone with the will. She’s got wisdom and she’s got courage.”