By Michael Patrick Leahy
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is using the same partisan power tactics to jam impeachment through the House of Representatives in 2019 that she used to pass Obamacare on a straight party line vote in March 2010.
“For the first time in U.S. history, a huge piece of legislation has passed with only one party’s votes,” Jamie Weinman wrote at Macleans on March 21, 2010.
“All the big initiatives of Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency, like civil rights and Medicare, passed with votes from both parties. This bill, on the other hand, received not a single Republican vote in either house,” Weinman added:
But it’s clear that one party is the conservative party and the other is a liberal party, and they are expected to vote more or less on party lines. When a member seems like he or she is going to break with the party, he or she usually falls back into line if the leadership requires it, as Bart Stupak did and as moderate Republicans usually do. . .
One reason Nancy Pelosi has emerged as the star of the Democrats is that she understands this new dynamic. She is famously partisan and disdainful of deals with the opposing party, which means that she has the same attitude as her Republican opposite numbers, and is able to get things done in the new system. So after Scott Brown, some of the more “bipartisan” types wanted the Democrats to go for a scaled-down health care bill that might attract Republican support. . . . Pelosi said no: she would take nothing less than rounding up the votes for a comprehensive bill, and she convinced President Obama to do it her way.
Eight months after she achieved that controversial 2010 legislative victory, the Democrats lost their majority in the House by a wide margin, as Republicans picked up a net gain of 63 seats in the November 2010 mid-term elections.
In stunning proof that a single vote can doom a lawmaker’s career in Washington, a new review of the 2010 healthcare vote found that 13 Democrats lost their reelection last November because they backed President Obama’s health reform bill. What’s more, it put many other Democrats in jeopardy of losing their seats because it automatically cost them six to eight percentage points even before voting started.
“Democrats paid a substantial price for party unity in the 111th House of Representatives,” said Seth Masket, associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.
He and Steven Greene, of North Carolina State University, teamed to study the impact of the healthcare vote and other major initiatives, such as the TARP vote, on the election results. In a presentation to political scientists in Chicago this month, they found that healthcare was a real killer, but that some of the other key votes also cost Democrats support at the polls.
Nine years later, Pelosi has regained the Speakership, and her modus operandi has not changed. Now, she’s pushing a partisan impeachment effort through the House of Representatives, one that George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley said on Wednesday in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee “would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”
Democrats currently enjoy a 233 to 197 (with one independent and four vacancies) majority in the House, and rank and file Democrats are receiving a clear message from Pelosi: vote yes for impeachment, regardless of the lack of any evidence of an impeachable offense, or you will no longer receive financial support for your re-election or have any clout.
Meanwhile, popular support for impeachment and removal of the president from office, particularly in key battleground districts, is slightly below opposition to it.
The 31 House Democrats who won districts in 2018 that President Trump won in 2016 face a difficult political choice: vote yes to impeach the president and face the wrath of the voters in November, or vote no and face the wrath of Speaker Pelosi from the moment the vote is cast.
Only two Democrats in the House dared to vote against Pelosi’s resolution to initiate the impeachment inquiry back in October: Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ). Both represent districts President Trump won in 2016.
In politics, the saying goes, fear is almost always a more important motivator than principle.
As Speaker Pelosi continues her partisan and divisive march towards an impeachment vote by the full House, it is fear, not principle, that will drive the voting behavior of those 31 Democrats who represent districts President Trump won in 2016. Based on her 2010 Obamacare victory and subsequent loss of the Democrat majority in the House, Speaker Pelosi appears to be motivated by a desire to win the political battle of the moment and let the future sort itself out.
During the next several weeks, we will learn whether these 31 Democrats from key battleground districts around the country fear Speaker Pelosi or their constituents more.