Republicans early Wednesday forwarded a resolution to boot Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from his post over the objection of Democrats who say the GOP has failed to meet the bar for impeachment.
The strict party-line vote, after an all-day markup that went late into the night, cements the GOP’s plans to ignite the second impeachment of a cabinet official in U.S. history, with a pledge from Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to swiftly bring the resolution to floor as soon as possible.
In pitching the articles, Republicans faulted Mayorkas for failing to detain all migrants crossing the border – a standard no administration has met – accused him of being personally responsible for fentanyl deaths, and attacked him as being the type of leader the framers had in mind in crafting the impeachment process.
“If your refusal to obey the law leads to the death of your fellow Americans, you no longer deserve to keep your job. You’re breaking the people’s trust. That’s why the framers gave Congress the impeachment power,” Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in opening the hearing.
“Secretary Mayorkas is the very type of public official the framers feared.”
Republicans’ impeachment articles are unusual, even in the limited instances in which impeachment has been used, accusing Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” as well as “breach of public trust.”
“We’re here based on two completely fabricated, unsupported, and never used before articles of impeachment,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who worked as a staffer on former President Trump’s first impeachment.
“There’s never been an impeachment in the history of the United States where someone has been impeached for something other than the abuse of power for purposes outside of his official duties.”
Mayorkas’s impeachment comes at a hectic time in the battle over the border.
While a bipartisan group of senators is negotiating a border deal with the White House and Mayorkas that is reported to contain a number of key GOP priorities, Trump has tried to actively spike the deal, seeing it as a win for President Biden.
House side GOP lawmakers have also opposed the deal and remain focused on impeaching Mayorkas despite little chance it will gain traction in the Democrat-led Senate where conviction requires a two-thirds vote.
During the markup, the argument swung back and forth between accusations of a “vengeful impeachment” to the need to address a “rogue secretary.”
The bulk of the GOP argument rests on claims that Mayorkas has failed to follow immigration laws that say migrants “shall” be detained, something they say he’s flouted both by failing to put enough people in detention and by “paroling” in migrants that might not otherwise qualify to enter the country.
It’s a claim that comes both as the Biden administration has tried to limit the use of detention and amid the reality that the country simply does not have enough beds to detain everyone who crosses the border.
Mayorkas enforcement priorities direct the detention of those that are considered national security or public safety threats. And while the Biden administration has already detained or deported more immigrants than under Trump, in some cases asylum seekers are permitted to enter the country while they pursue the claim.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the committee, said the complaint amounts to a Republican runaround of the courts — the Supreme Court upheld the enforcement priorities in an 8-1 decision that backed Mayorkas’s use of discretion in applying limited resources.
“Apparently Republicans are upset they lost in court and are trying to relitigate their cases through impeachment,” Thompson said.
But Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) criticized the Biden administration for seeking fewer detention beds in its budget.
“When you are reducing the amount year-over-year that you are asking for detention beds …they are creating the circumstances under which they are accomplishing what they want to do, which is preventing themselves from being able to follow the law,” he said.
The hearing likewise included a volley of attacks over which party is responsible for inaction on the border.
“This is not political theater, what is happening today is we are attempting to rein in a rogue cabinet secretary that has failed to enforce the law,” Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) said.
But Democrats zeroed in on the ongoing border talks as an example to undercut Republican claims that Mayorkas has failed to address the border.
“The irony of the fact that Secretary Mayorkas has spent the last two months-plus with a bipartisan group of senators negotiating legislation that would address the problems at the border should not be lost on anyone. You are sitting here right now trying to impeach a secretary of homeland security for neglecting his duties literally while he is trying to perform his duties and negotiate legislation,” Goldman said.
He also pointed to the numerous lawsuits brought by GOP states seeking to block Mayorkas’s policies for managing the border, including some that largely mirrored Trump-era directives or were opposed by immigration groups.
“Republicans went to court to sue him to stop him from implementing the policies to address the border. So your own party is sabotaging and undermining this administration’s efforts to address the border while you are trying to impeach him by saying that they’re not addressing the border. The hypocrisy is the least of it,” Goldman said.
Mayorkas responded to the allegations in the articles with a Monday morning letter, calling the effort full of “politically motivated accusations and personal attacks.”
“You claim that we have failed to enforce our immigration laws. That is false. We have provided Congress and your committee hours of testimony, thousands of documents, hundreds of briefings, and much more information that demonstrates quite clearly how we are enforcing the law,” Mayorkas wrote.
He also noted that both as secretary and as a former U.S. attorney he has spent much of his career battling drugs and fentanyl.
Still, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) suggested while there was little that could be done to stop his party from impeaching the secretary, the parties might find a way to come together on immigration.
“This is what’s going to happen. The House of Representatives is going to impeach Secretary Mayorkas, and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop it. That’s going to happen,” he said.
“What are we going to do after this? Are we going to have a conversation on how we secure the border or are we going to continue to blame others for everything? I would like to see this border secured in a manner that protects everybody and I do think there’s an opportunity to do that. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come up with a solution.”
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