Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Pelosi's dilemma


REP. JERRY Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced on June 3 the intent to vote to find Attorney General and presidential tool William Barr in contempt in Congress. That happened the day before the committee issued subpoenas to former White House communications director and Trump whisperer Hope Hicks, and to Amy Donaldson, one-time chief of staff to former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

They're the latest moves in the attempt to continue the ostensible fact-finding into wrongdoing by President* Trump, fact-finding that many House Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want completed before they even consider the process of Trump’s impeachment -- a process that, in meaningful respects, has already begun in fact, if not in name.

Speaker Pelosi has presided over much to'ing and fro'ing about pursuit of "the I word" by the members of the Democratic-majority House of Representatives. This strum und drang is happening mostly because Pelosi and most of the House Dems continue to look at impeachment through the purely political lens -- focusing on impeachment as a political event, rather than what it really is: a constitutional process.

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But the more Pelosi deliberates about it, the more she'll be forced to confront another side of the current dilemma, one that finds her in lockstep with the Republicans enabling a president* with no respect for the rule of law.

It's inescapable: Despite the divergence of their ultimate objectives, for now and into the foreseeable future, Pelosi and the Republicans are reading from the same page of the slow-walk impeachment hymnal.

Both are deeply invested in slowing down or derailing the advance of an impeachment narrative in Congress, albeit for different reasons. Both are eagerly watching the weathervane of popular opinion, each looking for different vindications.

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AND BOTH are hoping the immovable object of the 2020 presidential election will complicate a march, slow or otherwise, towards impeachment, each to serve a different agenda.

The Republicans are fine with this. They couldn’t care less about the short-term optics, as long as their long-term goals are pursued and achieved. It's more problematical for Pelosi. Any perceived alignment with Republican objectives makes her ability to hold a fractious election-eve caucus together that much more complicated.

Pushing back against an impeachment inquiry is, day by day, getting more and more indefensible for Pelosi, who leads a House that’s less concerned with the perception of a public unreceptive to impeachment, and more concerned with a reality of a president for whom impeachment proceedings may be the only check.

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That unintended adversarial alliance revealed itself before another inconvenient collision of theory and practice. On Tuesday, June 4, and purely by accident, Pelosi and the House Democrats undercut their own rationale for not pursuing impeachment.

That’s when, amid applause and pep-rally chants from the gallery, the Democratic-controlled House passed the DREAM and Promise Act of 2019, a bill to give 2.5 million undocumented immigrants a path to U.S. citizenship.

“The bill addresses DACA program recipients and the beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure. This includes DREAMers or those brought to the United States illegally as children,” The New York Times reported. “Even if the bill is passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, the White House has said President Trump will veto it.”

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YOU DON’T have to be the most astute student of American politics to see the contradiction — or the disconnect — between what the House Democrats did on Tuesday and what Speaker Pelosi has been offering for weeks as a reason for not beginning an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi, and others opposing any impeachment overtures, have said it would be a waste of time and capital to make the effort to impeach Trump in the House if that effort had no chance of succeeding in the Senate.

Curious how that fatalistic perspective vis-à-vis House action on impeachment disappeared entirely when it came to the House voting on the DREAM and Promise Act (which passed 237-187, with seven Republicans voting for it).

Even though the DREAM bill’s fate in the Senate may be just as DOA as any impeachment vote would be, Pelosi and House Democrats nonetheless went through the motions, stood on principle, and took that DREAM bill vote anyway. It’s an inconsistency of position that seems hard to explain, much less defend. Not that Pelosi & Co. won’t try.

Image credits: Pelosi: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press. Dream and Promise FAQ sheet: dreamandpromise.com

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