Congressional Democrats say their constituents are clamoring for something even the most liberal lawmakers promise they won’t pursue: President Bush’s impeachment.
“I get one call after another saying, ‘Impeach the president,’ ” said Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and one of Mr. Bush’s most relentless critics on the Iraq war.
“It’s a simple process but a very divisive thing,” Mr. Murtha said. “You’ve got to measure what it’s going to do to the country, and at this point I don’t see that happening. Instead we’ll fight it out on the issues.”
Some members speculated that the Democratic takeover of Congress and passage of Iraq withdrawal timetables in both the House and Senate have emboldened liberals across the country who want to see the president embarrassed during his final 21 months in office.
“The timing is all wrong,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. “If this were the first two years of his administration I would advocate impeachment. A lot of people at home say impeachment, and I’m sure he committed a lot of impeachable offenses, but think about it practically.”
Mr. Nadler said impeachment hearings would be pointless and would only distract the country from the presidential election next year.
Democrats say their constituents also want them to target such administration figures as Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s chief political adviser.
Rep. Diane Watson, California Democrat, said she hears calls for impeachment from every crowd.
“They say, ‘Democrats: Do something. Get Cheney, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales.’ They are saying impeachment. I am hearing that more and more and more,” said Ms. Watson.
She said she has been receiving “nothing but kudos” for being one of just a few Democrats to vote against the party’s Iraq spending bill on the premise that Congress should not keep funding the war.
Although she said she would support impeachment, she speculated that it is “not a strategy our new leadership would want to start with.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, pledged last year not to seek impeachment hearings if her party won control of Congress.
“Democrats are not about impeachment,” Mrs. Pelosi said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in May. “Democrats are about bringing the country together.”
An online “Impeach Bush” movement has received 861,000 votes, and the president’s approval ratings hover below 30 percent nationally, according to polls.
Few of those surveys ask about impeachment, and a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll conducted in January showed less than 1 percent think a Bush impeachment should be a “top priority” for Congress.