Representative Don Beyer of Virginia, who announced on May 21 that he was ready to pursue impeachment, told me that he still supports Pelosi’s strategy of, well, not doing that. “If we should finally get to impeachment, we’ll get there in a very thoughtful, structured way,” he said. “I don’t know how soon [Pelosi] will get there, or even necessarily that she will.” If Democrats continue to push for an inquiry, the congressman added, that could certainly influence the House leader’s decision making. But he doesn’t plan to pressure her. “She is our speaker, and we trust her and are devoted to her,” Beyer said.
Even the members who have been the most ardent public supporters of impeachment, such as Green and Representative Maxine Waters, haven’t been privately organizing against leadership or lobbying Pelosi on the issue, according to The Washington Post. “There’s impassioned debate among members,” one Democratic House aide, whose boss has called for an inquiry and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press, told me. But “it does not seem like there is a breakdown happening.”
It could be the case that Pelosi’s stance has offered some lawmakers a way to appease their constituents and express their personal views without having to actually act on them. “It probably gives us a little bit of cover,” the staffer acknowledged, adding that “there’s no sense here that she’s gonna come down on you if you” come out in support of an inquiry. (Pelosi’s office did not return requests for comment.)
“These people are historically not comfortable going up against Nancy Pelosi in the arena and squaring off,” said another House Democratic staffer, whose boss has also backed impeachment proceedings and who was similarly granted anonymity. “They like to pick fights with the administration and with the pundits, which is fine, but they are not the people who square up against leadership.”
In a press conference this morning, Pelosi encouraged members of the media to “disabuse” themselves of the notion that Democrats are in disagreement on impeachment. “Make no mistake, we know exactly what path we’re on,” she said. “There is no controversy.”
It makes sense that House Democrats would want to present themselves as a united, loyal front given the gravity of the topic at hand—and especially given the significance of the upcoming election for their party. But if the lawmakers calling to begin impeachment proceedings truly believe that they’re the best way to hold the president accountable and the only way to uphold the Constitution, it would also make sense if they were actively plotting to undermine leadership’s strategy.
Lawmakers’ obedience to Pelosi tracks with her broader management philosophy, says former Representative Steve Israel of New York, who worked closely with Pelosi when he served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. Under Pelosi’s leadership, “you’re free to express your view, and your view will be considered and maybe worked into a long-term plan, but at the end of the day, our caucus unity” is what matters, Israel told me.