Ariana Figueroa, Nevada Current
February 6, 2024
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday night, a stunning defeat for the Republican-led push to impeach a Biden administration Cabinet secretary.
The GOP lawmakers to vote against impeachment were Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Blake Moore of Utah.
Moore supported impeachment but switched his vote at the request of Republican leadership, according to Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, a leading advocate of impeaching Mayorkas.
Moore’s vote against the articles of impeachment allows House leaders to try again next week. Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, missed Tuesday’s vote but is expected to return next week.
After the failed vote, White House spokesman Ian Sams urged House Republicans to drop their impeachment push and join bipartisan talks to address immigration policy.
“Clearly there is bipartisan agreement that this baseless, unconstitutional impeachment stunt should fail,” he said in a statement.
“House Republicans ought to realize that extreme political stunts like this are a waste of time, and instead join the President, Secretary Mayorkas, and Republicans and Democrats who want to work together to deliver real solutions that actually strengthen border security.”
GOP drive against Mayorkas
Republicans had for weeks pressed to impeach Mayorkas, saying he violated immigration enforcement laws. Democrats decried the unusual move as politically motivated ahead of the November elections.
“Secretary Mayorkas has explicitly refused to comply with the law,” said the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mark Green of Tennessee, who has presided over impeachment efforts. “If your refusal to obey the law leads to the death of your fellow citizens, you no longer deserve to keep your job.”
Green has often blamed Mayorkas for the overdose deaths of Americans from fentanyl and other opioids that are smuggled across the southern border.
Republicans charged that Mayorkas has failed to uphold immigration law and has broken public trust.
Democrats argued the Republican criticisms did not reach the constitutional requirement for impeachment, but amounted to gripes over the Biden administration’s policies at the southern border.
The White House said in a statement that the Biden administration opposed the resolution, first introduced by Greene.
“Impeaching Secretary Mayorkas would be an unprecedented and unconstitutional act of political retribution that would do nothing to solve the challenges our Nation faces in securing the border,” the White House said.
Immigration disagreement roils Congress
The attempted impeachment vote intensified House Republicans’ clash with Democrats and the Biden administration over how to manage the southern border amid an unprecedented amount of migrants. The issue has animated the 2024 presidential election and is core to GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s campaign.
The vote followed Senate Republicans’ decision earlier Tuesday to walk away from a bipartisan immigration deal in the Senate that would overhaul U.S. immigration law and lead to crackdowns on migration. That deal is also tied to the passage of critical aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.
House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana argued that the immigration deal in the Senate is not harsh enough, and that it would empower the same Cabinet secretary that House Republicans have vowed to impeach.
However, he acknowledged during a Tuesday press conference that not all Republicans would agree to impeach Mayorkas.
“I respect everyone’s views on it,” he said of Republicans who expressed concern over the articles of impeachment.
With the GOP’s razor-thin majority and all Democrats voting not to impeach, Johnson could only afford to lose two Republican votes Tuesday.
Senate conviction was unlikely
The House vote was on a resolution comprising two articles of impeachment.
The first article of impeachment accused Mayorkas of a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law.”
The second article of impeachment accused Mayorkas of a breach of public trust by making false statements during congressional testimony, particularly citing statements by Mayorkas telling lawmakers the border is “secure.”
Had the House voted to impeach, the matter would have gone to the Senate for a trial. A conviction requires a two-thirds vote, which was unlikely in a chamber where Democrats hold a slim majority.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, did not give details during a Tuesday press conference on how the Senate would handle a potential impeachment trial.
“Let’s just see what the House first does,” he said.
During the House floor debate on the articles of impeachment, Democrats argued that Republicans failed to provide evidence for the high bar of impeachment, and said that GOP lawmakers were appeasing Trump.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, said that House Republicans had not produced “a shred of evidence” for impeaching Mayorkas.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was an impeachment manager in the second impeachment of Trump, said that Republicans are going after a Cabinet member who has not committed treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.
He said it was ironic that Republicans have been trying to impeach Mayorkas, who has been working for months with the Senate to create a solution to stem the flow of migration at the southern border.
Democrats have also decried Trump’s influence on Republicans involved in the immigration debate gripping Capitol Hill, derailing any efforts to reform immigration policy – something Congress hasn’t done in nearly 40 years.
“Republicans take their orders from Donald Trump,” the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said.
He called the efforts to impeach Mayorkas a “sham,” and that the articles do not reach the high bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which is the standard for impeachment in the Constitution.
“It’s a baseless attack on a dedicated public servant,” Thompson said.
“Donald Trump does not want a border solution, he wants a border problem to run on,” Raskin said.
Green pushed back against Democrats’ criticism that there is little evidence for impeachment. He said that his committee has spent a year building evidence that supports the impeachment of Mayorkas.
“The truth is this process has been painstakingly thorough,” Green said.
Republicans said that because of the unprecedented number of migrants at the southern border, Mayorkas should be held accountable.
Georgia’s Greene, who has rallied for the impeachment of Mayorkas for months, said the secretary is responsible for the “invasion” at the border.
“I argue that breaking our laws is more than just policy differences,” she said.
Dems call impeachment ‘political theater’
But House Democrats said the impeachment process was deeply flawed and not really about fixing the immigration system, with some noting that Republicans opposed a bipartisan Senate package with border security funding and immigration policy changes.
“I would say it’s a clown show, but that would be a disservice to actual working clowns,” Jim McGovern, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said.
He said that impeachment should be done after a “grave constitutional offense,” not over a policy dispute.
Democratic Rep. Rob Menendez of New Jersey defended Mayorkas, and said that Mayorkas is “operating within a broken immigration system” that Congress has not fixed.
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, Democrat of New Mexico, called the articles of impeachment “political theater,” and said Republicans are not working to fix immigration.
“They just blew up a bipartisan deal in the Senate,” she said. “They’ve refused to provide Secretary Mayorkas the resources and legal changes he needs to reform the immigration system so our border is secure.”
GOP Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas said that the deal in the Senate does not address border security.
“Immigration reform can come later after border security is established,” he said.
Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.