By: Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner
There are only a dozen days left in the 2019 House legislative calendar, and House Democrats are weighing whether to squeeze in an impeachment vote before they leave town for the year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who met privately with Democrats Wednesday did not discuss a date for considering articles of impeachment against President Trump, who they accuse of abusing his office and obstructing Congress.
“There were no dates discussed,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters Wednesday. “The speaker has said, I've said, others have said, we want to do this as expeditiously as possible.”
Behind the scenes, Democrats are weighing a Judiciary Committee vote next week on a handful of impeachment articles pertaining to their allegations that Trump tried to bribe Ukrainian government officials into investigating Joe Biden and the Democrats.
The articles would also charge Trump with obstructing Congress for refusing Democratic demands for witnesses and documents.
In the closed-door briefing Wednesday, Pelosi cautioned Democrats to “give room for their colleagues to reach their own conclusions as the inquiry proceeds,” a top aide said.
The caucus, however, did not reach any group conclusion on whether to move forward with impeachment, but rather, “members overwhelmingly indicated that they want to continue to advance the inquiry on its current deliberative path, one step at a time.”
Next week, the Intelligence Committee lawyers from both parties will testify before the Judiciary Committee about the 300-page impeachment report Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff released Tuesday. Democrats could take up the articles next week, leaving open the possibility of a floor vote before Dec. 20.
Democrats deny they are aiming for a vote this month.
“We are not focused on any timeline, other than to get this right, keep it fair, and make sure our election is secure,” Rep. Eric Swalwell of California said Wednesday.
Swalwell and other lawmakers participated in a public Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment featuring constitutional scholars.
Democrats said they are still not ready to endorse or reject impeachment, which Schiff has already declared will be a group decision.
“We need to finish this hearing, see all of that evidence from the report,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday. “I’d like to see if the president is going to come and testify. There is a few more things we need to get on the table before we can make that decision.”
The Judiciary Committee consideration of impeachment articles could take days.
The Judiciary Committee took three days to mark up articles impeaching President Bill Clinton in 1998 and six days to mark up articles impeaching President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Democrats, meanwhile, plan an ambitious legislative agenda over the next few weeks that includes a voting rights bill, a prescription drug measure, and critical spending legislation that must pass before a Dec. 20 deadline. Each of those measures will take considerable floor time.
The schedule has left some GOP lawmakers skeptical Democrats can get it all done and impeach the president by the Dec. 20 target adjournment date.
“They could do it, but I don’t think they are going to,” Rep. Mark Meadows told the Washington Examiner when asked about a pre-Christmas impeachment vote.
House Democrats are facing stagnant impeachment poll numbers that may motivate them to move off the matter as quickly as possible.
Rep. Donna Shalala of Florida, who flipped a GOP district in 2018, told the Washington Examiner Wednesday not one constituent raised impeachment during a Thanksgiving week town hall. Instead, they wanted to talk about healthcare, infrastructure, and gun safety.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who helped run the Clinton impeachment process, accused Democrats of dragging out the Trump investigation for months and consuming the House agenda.
The investigation technically began in the Judiciary Committee in July, when Nadler declared he was holding impeachment proceedings, although Pelosi did not endorse them until the end of September.
“The American public is getting sick and tired of impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, when they know a year from now they will be able to determine whether Donald Trump should remain in office or someone else should be elected,” Sensenbrenner said.