WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats convened privately Tuesday to discuss campaign issues and heard a sobering assessment: They’re seen as too focused on impeachment of President Donald Trump and voters are not hearing enough about their work on other issues.
The findings from Democrats’ internal polling came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brushed past mounting calls for impeachment — more than 70 lawmakers now support opening an inquiry — and tried to keep the majority focused on committee investigations of the Trump administration and the party’s own policy agenda. The private poll was conducted for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In many ways, the presentation Tuesday reinforced Pelosi’s strategy. The session at House Democrats’ campaign headquarters was the party’s first since taking the House majority. As lawmakers prepared to head home to meet voters next week, it signaled the start of Democrats’ efforts to retain control in 2020.
Pelosi welcomed the results, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the session. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the chair of the DCCC, told the lawmakers about the importance of driving home their work on health care and other issues, according to another person in the room. Both were granted anonymity to discuss the private session.
But the findings also showed the challenge ahead for Democrats.
Impeachment has taken center stage in the House. Lawsuits, televised hearings and high-profile witness testimony often take attention from the legislative agenda. Democratic bills on gun control, ethics reforms and lowering health care costs are essentially dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Still, voters from dozens of battleground House districts — many won by Trump in 2016 — say they want lawmakers to reach across the aisle.
According to the presentation Tuesday, voters put health care as their top priority, according to the aide in the room. That echoes the House Democrats’ campaign agenda that swept them to the majority in 2018, promising to lower health care costs, invest in infrastructure and impose ethics reforms.
“People want their members to work across the aisle,” the presentation said. “Healthcare costs are still the top priority for voters and are still the focus of Democrats’ best positive message opportunity.”
But “voters do not hear” about Democrats’ progress on their priorities, according to the presentation.
The clamor for impeachment is not expected to quiet any time soon. The party’s left flank sees the House as a last line of defense against Trump, and impeachment advocates argue there is enough evidence already available in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report for proceedings to begin.
Another event could affect the drumbeat for impeachment: Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday night that Mueller had agreed to testify publicly July 17 before the House’s judiciary and intelligence committees, which had issued subpoenas to him.
“Congress will continue to honor our oath to support and defend the Constitution and protect the American people, as we legislate, investigate and litigate,” Pelosi said Tuesday after a court ruling in Congress’ efforts to review Trump’s business practices.
But as Democrats were told Tuesday, voters who helped usher them the majority last fall want more.
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