BOSTON (CBS) — The impeachment process has only been triggered three times before, once in the 1860s and twice in the last 45 years.
But it appears that after months of being dared to try it, DC Democrats are ready to take the plunge.
“We cannot delay. We must not wait. Now is the time to act,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) on the House floor, and he’s not the only one who has run out of patience.
The growing pro-impeachment majority of House Democrats now notably includes seven freshmen who’ve been reluctant to use the I-word but are now saying that if the president “used taxpayer dollars as leverage” to help his political standing, it would be “a threat to all we have sworn to protect.”
But what would impeachment really mean?
Most likely, months of House Judiciary Committee hearings, a near-daily spectacle of partisan fighting that might or might not shed any light on the president’s alleged transgressions.
“It is possible to do something that is wrong and not be an impeachable offense,” says Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). “People are throwing that term around so loosely it’s lost all meaning.”
While polls show consistent public opposition to impeachment, they also show a high level of dissatisfaction with the president’s ethics and character. And with a Senate GOP majority controlling the outcome, there is little chance of a first-ever presidential removal.
Nonetheless, the Democrats seem finally ready to roll the dice, risking a backlash but also galvanizing their base and keeping the election-year spotlight where they want it – on President Trump and his historically-low character ratings.
Of course, impeachment hearings will also anger and energize the Trump base. That’s what Speaker Pelosi was trying to avoid with all her foot-dragging.
But it seems a critical mass has been reached, where even Pelosi figures the more scrutiny of the president’s ethics between now and election day, the better.