ALBANY — Nearly all New York congressional Democrats are supporting the call for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump in connection with the alleged inducement of the Ukraine government’s leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The latest White House controversy prompted several freshmen incumbents to join the impeachment ranks after they resisted a similar movement earlier this year in connection with allegations that Trump had colluded with Russia in that nation’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Representing New York’s 19th District, a swing region carried by Trump by 6 points over Democratic Hillary Clinton in 2016, Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, joined the chorus of Democratic voices backing the impeachment inquiry.
Delgado, a moderate Democrat who defeated incumbent John Faso, a moderate Republican, in 2018, had previously stayed clear of the impeachment push.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara/Buffalo, had come out in favor of initiating an impeachment proceeding in June, long before the Ukraine scandal came to light this month as the result of information from a government whistleblower. Higgins reiterated his support for going forward with an impeachment proceeding. “With each passing day we see an erosion of this country’s ideals by a President who freely sidesteps Congress, profits off his position, obstructs justice, and places personal politics before national security,” Higgins said.
A Trump ally, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-North Country, went on the offensive Tuesday against pro-impeachment Democrats Tuesday. Stefanik said she supports Trump’s decision to release a transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian counterpart.
“I do not support impeachment of the President,” Stefanik said. She said the “real question” should be the position of her challenger, Democrat Tedra Cobb, regarding the Democratic push for the impeachment inquiry.
Cobb, handily defeated by Stefanik in 2018, remained quiet on the subject throughout the day.
Whether Democrats favor impeachment or are resisting it is now a “litmus test” within the party, said Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University.
While many Democrats had earlier balked at joining the impeachment bandwagon, Reeher said the shifts in position Tuesday appear to stem from the perception that “these new revelations now seem more likely to lead to a clear smoking gun” that could erode confidence in Trump.
“The more moderate Democrats are recalculating, thinking they have to get on board with this or face primaries” from left-leaning insurgents, Reeher said. “The facts have also changed” since the Russia investigation.
The only upstate congressional Democrat to distance himself from the push for the inquiry was Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, of New York’s 22nd District. His district’s voter registration overlay gives a slight advantage to Republicans. The district includes Chenango County.
Brindisi did call the allegations from a government whistlebower “incredibly concerning,” adding: “The thought that any government official, especially our Commander-in-chief, would hold up foreign aid to an ally and suggest they investigate a political opponent, is a grave and troubling accusation. It is clear that this Administration needs to provide answers.”
Delgado, meanwhile, said in a statement he now favors going forward with the inquiry because “the President used the power of the presidency to pressure a foreign government to help him win an election. This, by itself is an impeachable offense.”
Delgado went on to say that “even more troubling” were allegations that Trump “instructed his administration to withhold military aid that Ukraine needed to fend off Russian aggression.”
The other Democrats who had previously taken no firm stance on impeachment but announced their support for the inquiry Tuesday include Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, and Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-Long Island.
In a Tuesday night tweet, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced that the GOP-controlled Senate unanimously approved his resolution calling for the whistleblower complaint to be provided to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
“This is about checks and balances, the separation of powers and the Constitution,” Schumer said.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com