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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before Congress

Reality hits House GOP in the face on Mayorkas impeachment

House Republicans entered the 118th Congress vowing zealous oversight of the Biden administration and talking a big game on impeachment. They were considering multiple impeachments of senior officials from President Joe Biden on down.

But following the Senate’s dismissal Wednesday of the impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the floundering Biden impeachment inquiry, things aren’t looking so rosy.

Remember: Just 15 months ago, everyone from Attorney General Merrick Garland to FBI Director Christopher Wray to Secretary of State Antony Blinken was rumored to be in the GOP crosshairs.

Yet as time went on, the political reality of a Democratic-controlled Senate, constant House Republican infighting and the messiness of the GOP investigations stood in the way of real results, rendering impeachment a poor political weapon. It’s a blunt, imprecise, slow and — above all — incredibly partisan process that has yielded little historically.

Still, a top House GOP chair says the impeachment of Biden remains on the table — and he blamed Democrats for the confusion surrounding how this procedure is used.

“The Democrats cheapened impeachment when they impeached Donald Trump twice,” Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) asserted. “The Democrats have done irreparable damage.”

Tit-for-tat: The Senate’s dismissal of the Mayorkas impeachment articles has also ignited a fierce debate over precedent. Both sides agree — for different reasons — that the impeachment process has been cheapened and weakened as a tool for punishing improper or even potentially illegal behavior.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked the presiding officer, Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray, whether the chamber’s dismissal of the Mayorkas articles creates a precedent that could apply to future impeachment cases, including for a president.

Murray, on behalf of the Senate’s parliamentarian, responded that it would set a new precedent.

Republicans used that exchange to argue that Democrats had just nuked impeachment forever. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) said Democrats “will come to regret what happened today,” invoking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s famous 2013 speech warning Democrats that they’d regret scrapping the filibuster for non-SCOTUS nominations.

Some senators suggested a future Republican-controlled Senate could bypass an impeachment trial triggered by a Democratic House simply by pointing to Wednesday’s events.

“The precedent now is that accusations from the House of a felony is no longer considered a high crime or misdemeanor. So congratulations, Chuck Schumer,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said.

Republicans claim Mayorkas violated federal law by allegedly lying to Congress, which is a crime.

Dems’ view: Democrats actually agree that a new precedent was set Wednesday — but not the same one.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the precedent was that impeachment shouldn’t be used to settle policy disputes, and that if Democrats didn’t shut down the Mayorkas trial, it would’ve been “much worse.”

“I judge the danger of normalizing the House’s impeachment process that they just ran as much greater than the danger of setting a new process precedent in the Senate,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added.

At the very least, there are likely to be practical implications for the Senate in the short-term. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other conservatives have vowed to jam up the Senate floor in protest of Democrats’ move to shut down the Mayorkas trial.

— Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Max Cohen

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