Vice President Mike Pence and other Republican leaders are raising doubts about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ability to hold her caucus together for a vote as House Democrats move forward with drafting articles of impeachment.
A House vote to impeach President Trump and a Senate vote to acquit him appeared all but inevitable as the process sped forward, but Republicans now say growing public sentiment against the effort is making a vote tough for vulnerable House Democrats.
“I know that Speaker Pelosi has announced articles of impeachment, but I have to tell you I served in the Congress for 12 years and I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will be able to get the votes to pass articles of impeachment,” Mr. Pence said in a Fox News interview broadcast Saturday.
Recent polling in the 31 Democratic-held House districts that Mr. Trump carried in 2016 shows that majorities are more likely to vote against a candidate if they support impeachment, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.
“If you’re one of those 31 Democrats, you’re a little afraid with just hearing what Nancy Pelosi just did [in] putting out this timeline for articles of impeachment. She just gave up your job,” Mr. McCarthy said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Still, Democratic leaders are pressing ahead.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said a vote on articles of impeachment could be held as soon as this week. He kicked the question to Republicans on whether the process would be bipartisan.
“It’s up to them to decide whether they want to be patriots or partisans,” Mr. Nadler said when asked whether he is prepared to move forward with no Republican votes.
Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a key ally of the president, said he doesn’t foresee a single defection from House Republicans on an impeachment vote.
“I think, if anything, there’s more pressure on my Democrat colleagues where instead of having just two defections, we may have more than that coming up as the articles get voted on,” Mr. Meadows said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
The articles of impeachment are expected to include charges of abuse of power, bribery and obstructing a congressional probe, all of which stem from Mr. Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
Republicans argue that Mr. Trump’s action, though unconventional, did not cross the line into criminality. They also have vouched for the legitimacy of investigating Hunter Biden, who landed a $50,000-a-month job on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in that graft-riddled country.
Lawmakers have speculated that additional articles of impeachment could arise from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Some moderate Democrats have expressed concerns about expanding the scope of the articles of impeachment.
“I was against going through with impeachment previous to this Ukraine matter. … I was very serious when I came out and said that,” Rep. Max Rose, New York Democrat, told CNN. “Unlike most of the people in this institution, I’m not going to just say something and forget about it.”
Mr. Mueller concluded in his report that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in that country’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. But he also said that based on the evidence he saw, he couldn’t exonerate Mr. Trump of trying to obstruct justice in connection with the probe.
If the Democratic-controlled House votes to impeach Mr. Trump with the bare majority needed or even a few votes to spare, it would further impugn a process blasted by the White House as partisan and unjust.
Before she reluctantly signed off on the inquiry, Mrs. Pelosi promised that impeachment had to be bipartisan and have overwhelming public support.
The country splits with 48% supporting impeachment and 44% opposing it, according to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Nadler said his committee could present formal articles of impeachment as soon as this week but declined to say whether lawmakers would include evidence from Mr. Mueller’s report to back up their case.
The New York Democrat accused Mr. Trump of working “with the Russians” to try to affect the 2016 election outcome.
“Then he tried to cover it up. And then he learned nothing and tried to get the Ukrainians to intervene and help him in the election for 2020. And he was trying to cover that up,” Mr. Nadler said. “After we hear the evidence, more of the evidence tomorrow, and after there’s a discussion tomorrow … then we will make these decisions.”
The Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with writing articles of impeachment, is scheduled to hear evidence in the case Monday.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who held a series of public hearings to gather testimony of witnesses, declined to say Sunday whether he thinks the case should be broadened beyond the issue of Ukraine.
“I think we should focus on those issues that provide the greatest threat to the country,” Mr. Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Mr. Nadler’s committee released a report over the weekend on “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment,” an update to versions of the report produced during the Nixon administration in 1974 and the Clinton administration in 1998.
“President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement accompanying the report. “The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment.”
Mr. Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, said Sunday that it looked like Democrats were trying to change the rules because the facts don’t support their case.
“When you can’t win the game, change the rules!” the president said in a Twitter post.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said Sunday that Democrats are trying to rewrite the rules to say that there doesn’t need to be proof that a law was violated to impeach a president.
“What we saw last night was a tell from the House Democrats,” Mr. Cruz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re now admitting they can’t prove a crime, they can’t prove a law was violated and here’s why: Any president, any administration, is justified in investigating corruption.”