After a marathon, 13-hour hearing, the House Homeland Security Committee voted along party lines to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The vote was 18-15.
Republicans on the panel charged that Mayorkas was guilty of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” as well as a “breach of public trust.” No Cabinet official has been impeached in nearly 150 years.
The full House is very likely to vote on Mayorkas’ impeachment next week.
The challenge for the GOP leadership is this: If they want to avoid embarrassment on the floor, they need to minimize both Republican defections and absences when the impeachment resolution comes up for a vote. Speaker Mike Johnson has no room for error with just 219 members of the House Republican Conference.
Currently, just two Republicans, Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) are still leaning “no” on the vote to impeach Mayorkas. Buck told us he plans to meet with House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) later this week.
About Tuesday night: The Homeland Security panel debated numerous amendments into the early morning for two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. By 9 p.m., the committee had only processed three amendments, but the pace picked up as the night wore on.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Lou Correa (D-Calif.) both offered amendments to strike an article of impeachment in its entirety. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) tried to offer an amendment that asserted Republicans were only impeaching Mayorkas because former President Donald Trump wanted it.
“You bend the knee to the Orange Jesus,” Rep. Rob Menendez (D-N.J.) angrily exclaimed at one point. ”We all know what this is about.”
Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) proposed an amendment that would prompt the committee to acknowledge that Mayorkas wasn’t afforded due process, chiefly because he wasn’t allowed to testify. Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) offered an amendment saying that Republicans had failed to meet the constitutional threshold for defining an impeachable offense by Mayorkas.
Yet no amount of stalling tactics changed the final outcome, which was always going to be a straight party-line vote.
“The facts are indisputable — for three years, Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and systematically refused to comply with laws enacted by Congress, and he has breached the public trust,” Green said. “His actions created this unprecedented crisis, turning every state into a border state.”
But the decision to impeach Mayorkas isn’t going over well across the Capitol, where some Senate Republicans and vulnerable red-state Democrats are criticizing the effort as futile. The Senate will have to conduct a full-scale Mayorkas impeachment trial.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune said he prefers to “focus on winning elections and changing the secretary of homeland security.” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said “malfeasance in office is not, the way we read it, a reason for impeachment.” And Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), a key red-state Democrat, said he “probably” wouldn’t vote to convict Mayorkas. The best way to address the problems at the border, Tester said, is to pass a border security bill.
On that note… Senate leaders in both parties signaled they aren’t giving up on the border security-Ukraine effort amid intensifying criticism from Johnson and Trump about the yet-to-be-released legislation.
But there’s no doubt that the onslaught from the right is making it more difficult for Senate GOP leaders to meet their stated goal of securing support from at least half the conference.
Senate Republican leaders and their allies on Tuesday lamented that Johnson, Trump and other conservatives are dismissing the emerging agreement before even seeing the text. And they’re defending Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator, from what they say are unfair characterizations of a bill they haven’t even seen.
“That type of misinformation has really hurt the prospects of getting this successfully through with real broad support, without correcting all of that misinformation that’s been put out there,” Rounds said, later suggesting that Johnson and other critics were being duped by a “propaganda” effort from Russia.
Senate Republicans are eager for the legislative text to be released so they can make the case that the bill represents “really good, strong conservative border policy,” Thune said.
“Nobody’s going to want to proceed to something until they’ve seen the text,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “Right now, people are operating off rumors.”
For now, Johnson is insisting he won’t take up the Senate bill, although the lead Democratic negotiator suspects Johnson is only saying that because he’s “rooting for this bill to die” so that the House doesn’t have to deal with it.
“Speaker Johnson doesn’t want his bill to pass the Senate because he knows if it does, there will be a lot of pressure to take it up in the House,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “If we pass this bill through the Senate, it will have the votes to pass the House.”
It remains to be seen whether a tide of GOP senators will turn against the bill simply because Johnson says he won’t take it up in the House. Murphy said Democrats are watching the public GOP debate and wondering “whether they still want the thing they asked for.”
— Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Mica Soellner