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Impeachment talk not going away, but action may be too risky for Dems

Talk of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Roll Call reported House Democrats held a caucus meeting Wednesday about whether to hold proceedings. The caucus remained divided over the issue. U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., was among lawmakers Roll Call polled who favored the proceedings.

That’s not much of a surprise. The 3rd Congressional District representative told the Journal earlier this month he was open to the possibility.

Luján said impeachment was a tool the Constitution provided for Congress in its role of oversight of the executive branch. He voiced frustration at the time about the lack of cooperation from the Trump administration in hearings following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Luján’s rival to replace fellow Democrat Tom Udall in the U.S. Senate, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, came out in favor of impeachment proceedings the day of the caucus meeting.

“We can both hold this President accountable and push for our progressive priorities – and don’t let anyone tell you differently,” Toulouse Oliver said in a release.

Other members of the New Mexico congressional delegation have gone on record about impeachment. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., told the Journal he preferred a more cautious approach, but said the president needed to be held accountable if it was found that he interfered with the Department of Justice during the Mueller investigation.

Udall said he’s long maintained Trump isn’t fit to hold the office.

He said he’s “mindful that impeachment proceedings begin in the House, whereas the Senate serves as the judge, and so for now I believe Congress and the courts must continue to follow the facts to ensure accountability and the strength of our democracy in a deliberate but urgent way.”

University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson said in an earlier interview that talk of impeachment works well with some segments of the country. But she also said Democrats could also be taking a risk, saying Trump does well when he has opposition. She also said Democrats in Congress needed to be careful “not to show that this is all they’re about.”

And the president went on the attack Wednesday, saying he would not negotiate policy with Democrats while they continued to investigate him. He walked out of a discussion with Democrats about infrastructure that same day, demanding the probes should end. Luján was at the meeting.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., criticized the president for walking out of the meeting.

“This is no way for the President of the United States to act,” Haaland said. “Since I was elected, we have been working diligently for the people. Our role is to hold the president accountable and to work for the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small said the Constitution required Congress to provide oversight, “and it’s important that we continue to carry out that responsibility, because no one is above the law.”

“I join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hoping that the Administration will respond to requests for information so the American people get the transparency they deserve,” she said. “But oversight is far from Congress’ only job. That’s why I remain focused on finding real, bipartisan solutions to the challenges facing New Mexicans, like increasing access to health care and fixing our broken immigration and border security policies.”

Heinrich took to Twitter last week to call for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

He noted that it had been 48 days (as of this past Wednesday) since the act passed the House, and called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to bring it up for a vote immediately.

“We can’t allow the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse to be secondary to political whims,” he said.

Udall advocated for the reauthorization in a teleconference two weeks ago, saying the act included protections for Native American women. He renewed that call on Senate leadership Friday.

“We cannot allow a comprehensive reauthorization of VAWA – which would increase the safety and security of countless women in New Mexico and across Indian Country – to be buried in the Majority Leader’s ‘legislative graveyard.’ Not when women’s lives are literally at stake,” Udall said.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

 

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