Nancy Pelosi may not be holding the Speaker’s gavel yet, but she is already laying out the Democratic strategy for the new Congress. Before the votes had all been counted from Tuesday’s election, the congresswoman from California was already pouring cold water on the left’s hopes for impeachment of President Trump.
In an interview with PBS Newshour Tuesday night, Pelosi told Judy Woodruff that impeachment would not be a Democrat priority. “It depends on what happens in the Mueller investigation,” Pelosi said, “But that is not unifying.”
“I get criticized in my own party for not being more in support of it, but I'm not,” she continued. “If that happens, it would have to be bipartisan, and the evidence would have to be so conclusive.”
Pelosi is apparently taking the smart route in playing down impeachment. Apparently having learned from both the Clinton impeachment and the Kavanaugh hearings that such actions often galvanize resistance, Pelosi does not want to stir up the Republican base ahead of a presidential election. Even though Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, he became even more popular afterward and survived an attempt at removing him from office.
By insisting on bipartisan support for any impeachment, Pelosi keeps the door open to future action if Donald Trump loses the support of Republicans, but she also implicitly acknowledges that Democrats don’t have the votes to do the job. It only takes a simple majority vote in the House to impeach a president, but a two-thirds vote in the Senate is required to remove him from office. While the Democrats hold the House and theoretically have the votes for impeachment, the exercise would ultimately be pointless if the Senate’s Republican majority would not vote to remove the president from office.
Instead, Pelosi said that her priority will be to work with Republicans on bipartisan legislation. “What people want us to do is address the concerns that they have in their lives,” she said. “There is serious financial instability in many families in our country. They want to see us working to do — to get that done for them. They want results. They want peace, and that's what we will bring them.”
The once-and-probably-future Speaker of the House noted that she had “worked closely on many issues” with George W. Bush despite their differences. She contrasted her claims of cooperation with Republicans during the Bush years to Republican attempts to block President Obama.
“We're not going to act the way they did,” Pelosi said. “Again, for those who want impeachment and… that's not what our caucus is about.”
Pelosi’s comments about impeachment stand in contrast to comments recently made by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary committee. A Federalist writer recently overheard Nadler discussing the possible impeachment of not only Trump but also Brett Kavanaugh.
While Pelosi’s promises of bipartisan cooperation on national priorities are unlikely to last long into the new year, her plans not to impeach Donald Trump should have more staying power. Democrats have been acting as obstructionists for the past two years. That is unlikely to change. In the case of impeachment, however, Pelosi is a seasoned politician who knows that the downside of impeaching President Trump is much greater than the benefit.
[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr]