Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus

Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus
© Aaron Schwartz

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (N.Y.) on Tuesday said he supports Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi11 Essential reads you missed this week Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? MORE’s (D-Calif.) decision to hold back on a formal impeachment inquiry against President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE, despite growing support from members of his leadership team.

“I believe that Speaker Pelosi is handling this appropriately,” Schumer said when asked if he would change his position and support the launch of impeachment proceedings after one of his top deputies, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (D-Wash.), called for an inquiry.

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Schumer has been careful not to undercut Pelosi’s resistance to launching impeachment proceedings, despite pressure from within his own caucus.

After Murray, the third-ranking member of Senate Democratic leadership, said she would back launching an inquiry, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowUSDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency USDA office move may have broken law, watchdog says MORE (D-Mich.), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee chairwoman, also offered support for the move.

Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses Rendell: Biden 'baked in' as Democratic nominee MORE (D-Mass.), Steering Committee Chairwoman Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar knocks Trump: 'This negotiating by tweet hasn't been working' Sunday shows preview: Trump ratchets up trade war with China Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates MORE (D-Minn.), Outreach Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy Sanders doubles down on 'Medicare For All' defense: 'We have not changed one word' Sanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses MORE (I-Vt.) — who are all presidential candidates — and Chief Deputy Whip Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator and top Trump immigration official argue over asylum claims on Twitter Senate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico MORE (D-Ore.) also back an inquiry.

Despite the backing of those key members, Senate Democrats overall are divided over how to handle the impeachment question, with a majority of the conference arguing it should be left entirely to Pelosi and the House.

But proponents of taking a more aggressive position say the momentum is shifting in favor of starting impeachment proceedings.

Merkley said Murray’s announcement was a major development in the Democratic battle over impeachment.

“I think it’s very helpful. It adds to the momentum,” he said

Advocates for impeachment think it will be easier to persuade Pelosi to move forward if Schumer and other Senate Democrats call for a formal impeachment process.

“We’ve been running advertising nationwide and of course we’ve got supporters in all 50 states and so when we do our grass-roots organizing, we always include the senators in that. So they’ve received tens of thousands of phone calls and emails and other outreach,” said Kevin Mack, the lead strategist of Need to Impeach, a group founded by Democratic mega-donor Tom SteyerThomas (Tom) Fahr SteyerDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows Steyer calls on DNC to expand polling criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch MORE, who is also running for president.

“We feel strongly that Leader Schumer should be for impeachment and should make his feelings known and we think the more Democrats that come out for this, the more pressure there is on the House leadership to do their constitutional duty,” Mack added.

Need to Impeach on Tuesday announced the launch of a “six-figure” ad campaign featuring key moments of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE’s testimony before two House committees last week on his investigation into Trump and his inner circle.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill MORE (D-Hawaii), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says a formal impeachment inquiry would boost House investigations of Trump. She said it could help get judges to force the administration to comply with Democratic subpoenas.

“They should just do an impeachment inquiry so that they’re able to issue the subpoenas and have the subpoenas have, possibly if you have to go to court, more weight,” she said.

Hirono said if a formal impeachment process is started then federal judges who rule on subpoenas are less likely to view Congress as “just fishing” but instead “very purposeful in their investigatory efforts.”

But Senate Democrats are divided over whether launching the impeachment process would be smart ahead of the 2020 elections.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSunday shows - Recession fears dominate Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel MORE (D-N.H.), who is up for reelection next year in a traditional swing state, said impeachment is a divisive topic and argued that voters care more about bread-and-butter economic issues, such as how to afford health care coverage and pay for college. Her remarks are similar to those Pelosi has made publicly in suggesting an impeachment drive could backfire on Democrats.

“The most important thing to do is to defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. I think the country is still very divided and that would increase the divisions in the country,” she said of impeachment.

“I hear from people on both sides,” she said of feedback from constituents when she goes back home.

She said voters are more concerned about “how to they’re going to get health care for their kids, how they’re going to pay their college loans” while “companies are worried where they’re going to get their workers.”

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (D-Mont.), who represents a state that Trump won by 20 points in 2016, said he’s worried that an impeachment debate would overshadow other issues.

“My concern is that it takes our focus off the issues that Montanans are talking about, which is health care and college and infrastructure and that kind of stuff,” he said.

Murray’s call for the beginning of impeachment proceedings caught colleagues by surprise and prompted speculation within the Senate Democratic Conference over whether she was trying to establish an independent brand within the leadership or merely responding to political dynamics at home.

“She’s a very planful person. She doesn’t do things from the gut,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on Murray’s motives.

Murray is the assistant Democratic leader, the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and was on a swift trajectory upward under former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidStrange bedfellows oppose the filibuster No, it is not racist to question birthright citizenship McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster MORE (D-Nev.), who often praised Murray in the highest terms when he was in charge of the conference.

Reid picked her in 2011 to serve as the Democratic co-chair of the so-called supercommittee, or the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was formed after a standoff over raising the debt limit earlier that year.

He also tapped Murray to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the 2011-2012 election cycle, when Democrats picked up two seats.

Murray’s call for impeachment proceedings to begin may solidify her liberal credentials for a future leadership race or may help stave off a potential primary challenge when she is up for reelection in 2022.

All seven Democrats of the House delegation from Washington state have also called for an impeachment inquiry against Trump. Washington’s junior senator, Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellWill Congress act to stop robocalls? Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks MORE, was the only congressional Democrat from the state not to join the effort.