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How House Democrats Are Feeling As They Prepare For Historic Impeachment Vote

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Tonight, the House Judiciary Committee is debating two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Republicans have been unified in opposition against the impeachment process. Among Democrats, there were just two lawmakers who declined to support the start of the impeachment inquiry. NPR's Tim Mak joins us now to talk about how House Democrats are feeling as it prepares for this historic vote.

Hey there, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

CORNISH: Looking ahead to next week's planned vote on articles of impeachment, are House Democrats unified?

MAK: Well, Democrats are appearing to generally fall in line. We don't hear many objections from within the party to proceeding forward with votes on articles of impeachment. And in contrast to many other issues, we don't see a lot of lawmakers lobbying each other on this expected vote because it's such a rare and historic event. The party leadership even says that it will not be whipping this vote. Lawmakers will have to make up their own minds about whether the president's conduct is impeachable.

CORNISH: And there was a lot of political chatter heading into this process about the Democratic majority, the fact that it's built on winning swing districts. How are Democratic lawmakers from those states that are tightly contested areas reacting?

MAK: Well, Congressman Tom Malinowski, for example, is in a battleground district in New Jersey. He supports impeachment. And he says that Democrats will remain mostly unified on this.

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TOM MALINOWSKI: Not all of them have come out publicly. I think many of them would prefer to announce any decision in their districts.

MAK: Not every New Jersey Democrat is on board, however. Congressman Jeff Van Drew was one of just two Democrats who did not support the launch of the impeachment inquiry. He prefers a step short of impeachment.

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JEFF VAN DREW: This is a clumsy tool to use - impeachment - for what people are trying to say. So what I think legislators are trying to say - we don't like some of the things that you've done here.

MAK: Well, so he doesn't think that the evidence exonerates the president. He would just prefer that the House censure the president, which would be a formal rebuke. But there's no indication that House leadership is considering that step right now.

CORNISH: In the meantime, there's some action before the House Judiciary Committee tonight. What's going on? And where are we in the process?

MAK: So the House Judiciary Committee has just begun considering these two articles of impeachment. Lawmakers are giving their view on how this process should proceed. Chairman Jerry Nadler explained why he supported impeachment.

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JERRY NADLER: We have each taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope to be remembered for honoring that oath. I hope you feel the same. So with a heavy heart, clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment.

MAK: Republican ranking member Doug Collins countered that the impeachment process has been deeply flawed, partisan and illegitimate.

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DOUG COLLINS: The big lie that we're hearing perpetrated tonight is one - the end justifies the means. The lie is that the sham impeachment is OK because the threat is so real and so urgent and so imminent. The big lie is that political expediency is honorable and justifiable, and history has shown that to be untrue and dangerous.

MAK: So they'll consider the articles tonight and then start back up Thursday morning with an eye on voting on these articles by the end of the day. Then we expect they'll consider articles of impeachment in the whole House of Representatives later next week.

CORNISH: NPR's Tim Mak, thanks for the update.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.