New York Democrats Balance Impeachment Issue With Local Concerns

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The conversations that unfolded in these Democratic town hall-style meetings, with a diverse group of three freshman lawmakers in three distinct enclaves of New York, reflected the broader dialogue happening across the country. Lawmakers, who are home in their districts for a two-week congressional recess, are confronting the delicate job of explaining their stances on the impeachment process, while still addressing voters’ more immediate concerns about issues like health care, climate change and infrastructure.

From Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s liberal urban stronghold to Mr. Delgado’s rural district, many voters appeared to be more interested in talking about regional issues than about high crimes and misdemeanors. And the lawmakers worked to make it clear that they, too, had more on their minds than the potential removal of Mr. Trump.

“Impeachment of this president is the short-term action that we need to take to preserve our democracy,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, preparing to show her audience a PowerPoint presentation on her latest policy initiative. “But if we are really going to thrive as a country, we need to make long-term investments and keep our eyes on the prize of social, economic and racial justice in America.”

When a New Jersey woman interrupted the event to question Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s reasoning on impeachment, the freshman lawmaker calmly observed that “you and I clearly have different takeaways,” and encouraged attendees to read the documents released by the White House and draw their own conclusions.

But pressed on her public disagreements with other Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez assured those present that, “in this moment, there is nothing that is going to shake the unity of the Democratic Party in impeaching the president of the United States.”

Party leaders had rebuffed calls to postpone congressional recess, arguing that even amid an avalanche of support for the inquiry, it was important for lawmakers to return home and explain their positions. The House Republican campaign arm heralded each event in moderate or conservative-leaning districts with an “impeachment advisory,” a warning sign for Democrats who were already well aware of the risk of an impeachment backlash from their constituents.