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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before Congress

Delaying the inevitable? Mayorkas impeachment trial punted again

Senate GOP conservatives won the battle. They’re still likely to lose the war.

Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday bowed to pressure from Senate Republicans who want a full-fledged impeachment trial for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Johnson agreed to delay the formal transmission of the Mayorkas impeachment articles until next week, averting a quick vote by Senate Democrats dismissing or tabling the trial.

Johnson’s move ensures that such a vote won’t take place on Thursday as senators are eager to leave town for the weekend, which the Senate was on track to do if House Republicans presented the articles later today. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) predicted that senators would’ve succumbed to “jet fume intoxication,” making it less likely that conservatives’ bid for a full trial would succeed. There were also attendance concerns.

“The benefit of the delay is — duh — that we have a chance to talk about the issue,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) quipped. “Maybe talking about it for a few days, before we take the Constitution and turn it upside down, just might be a wise thing to do.”

To be sure, this isn’t likely to change the final result. The Senate is still on track to bypass a formal trial for Mayorkas, potentially even with some GOP help. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated Tuesday that he wants to end the process as quickly as possible.

Lunch talk: During Tuesday’s Senate GOP lunch, several Republicans stood up and pushed their leadership to advocate for a delay, according to three attendees. Senate Minority Whip John Thune told Republicans that he also backed a delay.

Thune later told us that waiting until next week allows for “a more fulsome discussion” than if senators were forced to vote Thursday afternoon on a dismissal or tabling motion.

Senate Democrats — who haven’t engaged in any negotiations over a potential Mayorkas trial — can bypass the whole thing on the first day as long as they’re united. But even a single Democratic defection hands Republicans an opportunity to force a trial. However, a handful of Republican votes could be in play for a vote to dismiss or table the trial.

The skeptics: There’s a group of Senate Republicans who are clearly unenthusiastic about hearing an impeachment case that’s destined to fail, all for slightly different reasons. Senate conservatives jokingly referred to them as their party’s “free-range chickens who wander off” at a Tuesday press conference.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) lamented the possibility that the Senate would have to spend time on an impeachment trial for Mayorkas, arguing there’s more important work that needs to be done, including reauthorizing FISA Section 702 before the April 19 deadline.

Murkowski didn’t explicitly say whether she would vote with Democrats on a motion to dismiss or table the trial at the outset. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also isn’t saying which way she would vote.

Then there’s Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who’s hinting he could vote for such a motion. Romney is among those who believe there isn’t a high crime or misdemeanor being alleged against Mayorkas.

Conservatives took turns jabbing Romney on Tuesday.

“Maybe there’s a reason [Romney] is not going up for reelection,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said. “I’m not sure what town halls he’s going to and listening to, but it’s not the same town halls I’m listening to.”

McConnell’s take: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed the idea of a full trial but isn’t nearly as vocal about it as other GOP leaders. And on Tuesday, when McConnell was asked what he thought about the possibility of delaying the trial, the Kentucky Republican said he has no advice to give to Johnson.

McConnell then immediately pivoted to his top priority — passing the Senate’s $95 billion foreign aid package. McConnell used the phrase “on substance” to transition from talking about the impeachment effort to discussing the supplemental and his oft-stated desire for Johnson to take up and pass the Senate’s bill.

McConnell also noted the FISA deadline.

“So, we’ve got our hands full here,” McConnell concluded.

— Andrew Desiderio

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