LOS ANGELES -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried again this week to shift focus away from a divisive debate over impeachment and move it to a signature issue that Democrats credit with helping them win back a majority in that chamber: health care.
After a panel discussion on the Democrats' health policy agenda in Monterey Park, Calif., on Monday, Pelosi deflected questions about impeachment from reporters and said the news media were placing "a great deal of attention" on the topic.
"What we're doing is legislating. We've sent bills to the Senate that talk about our Dreamers, we've sent bills to the Senate that talk about gun violence prevention," Pelosi said, adding that she believes those issues are "unifying, they're not dividing for our country."
Minutes after the event concluded, Orange County freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Porter announced in a video that she supports opening an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
The conflicting messages provide a preview of the ongoing struggle House leaders face as they try to contain talk of impeachment this summer. More than a quarter of Democrats in the House have publicly supported opening an impeachment inquiry, 14 of them from California.
Pelosi's panel on Monday, which also included Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, was billed by Democrats as part of a "weekend of action" on health care. The renewed focus on key issues for Democrats is the latest sign that party leaders aren't willing to budge on impeachment until public support is clear.
"When we won that election in November, it was all health care, health care, health care health care," Pelosi told the audience of several hundred people at East Los Angeles College in Chu's district. "It was because it is so important to people's lives."
Meanwhile, Trump said over the weekend that he is working on a new health care plan, promising to roll out details within two months. Republicans on Capitol Hill want to move on from the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act and are focusing instead on more narrow legislation to reduce healthcare costs.
House Democratic leaders said more than 140 health care-focused events were planned by House members across the country, part of a "drumbeat across America" on health care over the weekend.
But the beat wasn't very loud in California's most competitive districts. Although Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) visited a rural health center in the Central Valley and Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) toured a nonprofit hospital and held a roundtable discussion with administrators in Orange County, neither event was publicized and both were closed to the news media.