Nancy Pelosi is ready for this fight
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Speaker of The United States House of Representatives, was made for this moment. With a congressional career spanning 32 years, Speaker Pelosi is poised to lead her caucus through uncertain impeachment waters during the coming months.
This past week, I joined former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) for Bloomberg’s Sound On hosted by Kevin Cirilli and reacted, in real time, to the breaking news of Speaker Pelosi’s press conference announcing impeachment proceedings in the House. During the conversation, we often returned to the similarities and differences related to the Bill Clinton impeachment saga in the late 90’s. Kingston was a member of the House during that time and was a leading conservative voice advocating for the impeachment and removal of President Clinton.
Today, just 56 of Kingston’s former colleagues during the Clinton impeachment proceedings remain in Congress — 42 Democrats and 14 Republicans. The three top Democrats, Speaker Pelosi (first elected in 1987) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) are among those 42 Democrats. So are the current chairs of five key Congressional committees involved in the current impeachment crisis: Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.); Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.); Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.); Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.); and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The sixth key House Committee, Intelligence, is headed by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) who took office in 2001.
No current member of the House GOP leadership served during the Clinton administration.
Only Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who was in office in the 90’s, serves as a Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee — one of the six key committees identified in Pelosi’s press conference.
What all of this means is that Democrats have a strong advantage when it comes to impeachment experience, having so many more members, especially in leadership, who were around for the last impeachment effort.
This experience from the 90’s could be one of the critical reasons Speaker Pelosi was more hesitant to move forward with a formal impeachment proceeding than many of her Democratic colleagues. Pelosi had seen firsthand what happened to Republicans at the ballot box during the 1998 midterms, when the Democrats picked up five seats in the House. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich had assured his members that the GOP caucus was likely to pick up 30 seats in the midterms. Gingrich’s miscalculation on public sentiment led to his eventual ouster from leadership and resignation from the House following the electoral drubbing.
Indeed, as Chris Smith notes in Vanity Fair, Pelosi “had thrown cold water on calls for impeachment for more than two years… based on… a belief that her party’s nominee has a good shot at beating Trump in 2020, and the need to protect congressional Democrats who are vulnerable to defeat in swing districts.”
In a brand new Business Insider poll released Thursday morning, 45 percent of respondents supported impeachment, with 29 percent indicating that they strongly supported it; 30 percent of respondents opposed impeachment, with an additional 25 percent unsure or unaware of what impeachment is. According to the report, “the poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, after Pelosi’s announcement but as the news was still developing.”
If the Business Insider poll is an accurate snapshot following the transcript’s release, that would demonstrate an eight percent increase in public support from a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week that indicated public support for impeachment at 37 percent.
Any hopes held by the president or Trump administration officials that the release of the abbreviated call transcript would quell talk of impeachment have been dashed. According to CNN, “top Democrats have concluded it showed clear evidence of [Trump] pressuring a foreign leader for political advantage.”
Despite the Mueller Probe’s numerous citations involving potential obstruction of justice violations committed by Trump, the lengthy report was cumbersome and confusing to many Americans. New charges involving this whistleblower report and the transcript, according to Pelosi, “is the most understandable by the public.”
In the same interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg this past week, the speaker went on to say, “public sentiment is everything,” and quoted Abraham Lincoln as saying, “with it, you can accomplish practically anything. Without it, practically nothing.”
As one of the few Members of Congress in office during the Clinton impeachment, Pelosi and her chief lieutenants know all too well just how important public sentiment is for rallying members and the general public to their cause. I wouldn’t bet against her or them as this process plays out.
Kevin Walling (@kpwalling) is a Democratic strategist, Vice President at HGCreative, co-founder of Celtic Strategies, and a regular guest on Fox News and Fox Business.
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