WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has become the first member of the Connecticut delegation to call for the start of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, whom he said has since his inauguration “has shown contempt for the truth, has attacked our institutions, and has ignored the Constitution he swore to defend.”

Himes, a centrist Democrat whose political instincts favor comity and bipartisanship, said he has until now been conflicted about whether Congress should begin an impeachment inquiry as he considered the facts, the letter of the law and the broader interests of the nation.

“The politics of impeachment are messy and uncertain, and might, in the short run, serve the President’s narrow political interests,” he said in a statement Monday. “But look at where we are today. Republicans cheer or justify or stand woefully silent in the face of behavior for which they would have impeached a Democratic president many times over. Our best and most proven ideas cannot get even a hearing in the United States Senate. Unless we restore respect for the law, respect for truth and respect for common decency, we cannot hope to solve any of our other pressing problems.”

The number of House Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry to begin has grown to almost 80, according to a CNN tally.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has thus far resisted launching a formal inquiry, preferring instead to allow House committees to continue investigations that could eventually lead to impeachment. Speaking at the Connecticut Democratic Party’s John Bailey Dinner on Friday, Pelosi said that holding the president accountable is very serious business and that it is imperative House Democrats have “our strongest hand” through its investigations.

Early calls for impeachment came mostly from progressive Democrats before Special Counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced a resolution in January 2018 calling for the impeachment of Trump saying his statements have sown discord in the United States and brought “contempt, ridicule, disgrace and disrepute” to the office of the President. The resolution was tabled on a procedural vote in January 2018 with only 66 Democrats supporting it.

Since the release of the Mueller Report, the calls for impeachment have grown as the White House has sought to stymie efforts by House Democrats to gather testimony from those involved in the investigation.

Himes said his call for an inquiry is not an attempt to pressure Pelosi, whom he praised as providing “superb” leadership in Congress. He says it is simply time to begin a formal process so that the American people get a “fair consideration of the facts.”

“There are moments for careful calculation. For weighing political expediency and conflicting interests. And there moments for clarity and conviction. This is that moment,” he said.

Himes rattled off a number of complaints against Trump and what he describes as his autocratic behavior.

“He has refused the oversight which is Congress’ long-established right and duty. In recent weeks, he has refused to comply with subpoenas, he has ordered administration officials to refuse to testify, and he has asserted executive privilege of unprecedented scope with respect to attempts to alter the census.’ Himes said. “The President attacks our free press, threatens to jail his political opponents and attacks courts and judges when they challenge his unprecedented behavior.”

“That we have not slouched closer to autocracy is due to the strength of the democratic safeguards and protections that we have built and defended for two and a half centuries. Most Americans sense the danger and have reacted, most recently by electing a House of Representatives with the power and desire to check this President.  The President has refused to acknowledge or acquiesce to that power,” he said.

Himes added that the House inquiry would likely not lead to Trump’s removal from office by the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

During her Friday address in Connecticut, Pelosi also expressed concerns that Senate Republicans would resist an impeachment trial. She said that is why the House must send a strong message to the Senate “when we get the facts” that make clear what the Senate is doing if they fail to honor their oath of office when the facts are available.