By Alana Abramson
June 4, 2019

As more Democrats call for an impeachment inquiry, just one thing is certain — the conversation is not going away anytime soon.

Congress returned to the Capitol Monday after a week-long recess that saw several more Democratic lawmakers – including two committee chairmen — join the growing calls for impeachment. More than 55 Democrats currently support an impeachment inquiry, according to tallies from multiple news outlets, and many are convinced the numbers will only increase.

“I think the feeling of inevitability is growing, generally,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, who sits on the judiciary and oversight committees and is in support of an inquiry. “There is a sense that the lawlessness and corruption of the White House leave us little choice. People were catalyzed into action by the President’s order to the executive branch to stop cooperating with all legislative inquiries.”

Calls for an inquiry began percolating more loudly last month, as Democrats grew frustrated by the White House’s repeated stonewalling. Democrats are responding to the White House’s defiance. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced there would be a floor vote on June 11 to hold Attorney General Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn in contempt for defying subpoenas, and theJudiciary Committee will hold a set of hearings to examine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Democrats are also prevailing in court, where the administration is challenging several subpoenas. But these actions are doing nothing to quell members who want an inquiry.

“This is a question of making sure the committee has the ability to tell the American people the story,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the judiciary committee and Democratic leadership, in explaining his support for an inquiry. “To the extent that the President continues to behave as if he’s above the law and… continues to prevent Congress from performing their oversight the number of people who will grow frustrated and think their only option will be to open an impeachment inquiry.”

On Sunday, members of that camp got a boost when Rep. Jim Clyburn, the majority whip and third highest ranking Democrat in the chamber, said he thought the impeachment process was inevitable.

“We’re trying to make sure that we do what is necessary to educate the public, make sure that the public understands exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, so that people won’t misinterpret this as being a political move on our part,” Clyburn told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“It sounds like… you think that the president will be impeached, or at least proceedings will begin in the House at some point, but just not right now?” Tapper clarified.

“Yes, [that’s] exactly what I feel,” said Clyburn.

As Majority Whip, Clyburn has jurisdiction over vote counts, giving him unique insight into where the caucus stands. His willingness, then, to declare impeachment an inevitability on national television may confirm what many lawmakers and aides have been saying privately: that support for an inquiry extends beyond those who have publicly called for one.

“He’s a very smart guy, very experienced and a very canny politician,” said Virginia Rep. Don Beyer. “My sense is that he has a pretty good finger on the pulse of the Democratic caucus.”

Beyer also said comments like Clyburn’s are key to fostering more public support for an inquiry among the caucus. “[It] makes people feel a little more comfortable about actually coming out for the inquiry, or all the way for impeachment,” said Beyer. “Everyone has struggled for a long time between the desire to get a lot done right now… versus our constitutional responsibility to defend democracy. Many of us believe that what [Trump] has done is impeachable.”

A CNN poll released June 2 found that 76% of Democrats are in favor of impeachment, a 7 point increase from April. But that polling also highlights the political perils of starting the process, even if it’s just an inquiry. The poll found that 54% of voters overall said Trump should not be impeached.

This discrepancy illustrates why Clyburn may deem impeachment inevitable, but not immediate. It is clear that House Speaker Pelosi, along with her leadership team, wants independent voters — who were key to Democrats’ regaining the House Majority — to be solidly on board before anything happens. “What Nancy Pelosi is trying to do and the rest of us in the House of Representatives is to develop a process by which we can efficiently move on this issue, so that, when we get to a vote, it would be something that she calls ironclad, I call effective,” Clyburn said Sunday. “And that is why we are trying to take our time and do this right.”

Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com.

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