House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is once again struggling to maintain control over her new majority's caucus -- even battling dissension among her own leadership team. Pelosi has already faced multiple rank-and-file insurrections on GOP-led motions to recommit, caved to pressure and lost a battle over condemning a freshman member's anti-Semitism, decided to ignore her chamber's budgeting requirements in order to sidestep endless intra-party spending battles, and recently watched as her party was forced to shelve (since revived) DREAM Act legislation due to internal squabbling over extending amnesty to people with criminal records. Her latest headache is on impeachment, which she's opposed for months on tactical grounds.
Her rhetorical fence-straddling has been awkward and strained at times (what does this mean?), and now it appears as though there's a growing chance that her delicate balancing act could be heading toward a breaking point (see update). In a closed-door meeting yesterday, top House Democrats reportedly clashed over the issue of pursuing impeachment against President Trump. Though Pelosi did not abandon her opposition to the idea, her stance came under siege from some typical allies:
GET IN THE ROOM: @SpeakerPelosi's own leadership team tonight rebelled against her on impeachment.— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) May 21, 2019
During a closed door meeting, at least five members of her leadership team pushed her to bless an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
More details, via Politico:
House Democratic leaders sparred internally on Monday over whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies rejecting the call to move forward for now, according to multiple sources. Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi's office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats' message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump...
While Pelosi and her top Democrats argue that a majority of House Democrats don't want to impeach Trump, she is under growing pressure from some of her most hard-line members to move more forcefully against the president...Several members and aides said an impeachment inquiry resolution could be introduced in the House Judiciary Committee in the next several days, spurring more Democratic debate over how to respond to Trump. During the Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Cohen said President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings “over sex” while Trump is “raping the country,” according to two sources in the room. Cohen later confirmed his remarks.
Though Pelosi repeatedly claimed that this calculus is not about politics, according to multiple accounts, it...very much looks like it's about politics. From the same story: "Impeaching Trump, or even beginning an impeachment inquiry against Trump, is a huge risk for Democrats. Pelosi and her allies complain the anti-Trump fervor is overwhelming Democratic messaging on their agenda, and claim that most of the rank and file is against the move. Democratic leaders also fear that impeaching Trump in the House, only to see him acquitted by the Senate, would strengthen his hand in 2020." If impeachment were more popular, didn't interfere with other agenda items, and didn't threaten to strengthen the president's political standing -- all three of which are purely political considerations -- would Democratic leadership be singing a different tune? As it stands, it's quite obvious that Pelosi and those on her side of this escalating argument are watching the polls carefully. They all show lopsided opposition to impeachment:
"Since Mueller’s report came out, seven national pollsters have asked whether Congress should launch impeachment proceedings against Trump. ... The percentage of respondents who say yes has never reached 40." https://t.co/uYTzrYYO6a— Will Saletan (@saletan) May 21, 2019
I can't help but wonder whether Rep. Justin Amash's pro-impeachment statement may have stirred Democratic passions, further pressuring Pelosi. In my response to Amash yesterday, I said that his comments wouldn't change the dynamics on the issue in Congress, and that's certainly true on the GOP side of the aisle. But could a Republican member joining the impeachment crew have infused Resisters with a newfound sense of momentum, emboldening them to really press the Speaker? Ironically, Amash may have inadvertently further united Congressional Republicans (see Mitt Romney's comments, for instance), while further dividing Democrats.
UPDATE - Things are heating up even further, with Pelosi calling an 'emergency' full caucus meeting on impeachment, as more of her rank-and-file members move closer to pursuing the I-word.