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Senate rejects two impeachment articles against DHS Secretary Mayorkas

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Ariana Figueroa, Nevada Current
April 17, 2024

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday dismissed two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The Democrat-controlled chamber voted, 51-49 along party lines, to adjourn the impeachment trial after finding that the impeachment articles accusing Mayorkas of not complying with federal immigration law and breaching the public trust did not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and were therefore unconstitutional.

“The charges brought against Secretary Mayorkas fail to meet the high standard of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor before a series of votes. “To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future.”

The adjournment vote followed successful votes to drop the two House-passed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, as well as a series of Republican motions to adjourn the court of impeachment or enter closed session, which all failed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only senator to break party ranks during an afternoon vote series. She voted “present” on a motion to drop the first article of impeachment.

Senators were sworn in Wednesday as jurors after House Republican impeachment managers delivered the two articles of impeachment the day before, starting the proceedings. House Republicans voted to impeach Mayorkas, on their second try, in February.

Republicans have demanded a trial, while Senate Democrats indicated they planned to either dismiss the articles or table the trial because they argued the charges against Mayorkas did not reach the constitutional threshold required of impeachment, which is “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said.

Republicans blast process

Following the vote, Republicans slammed Democrats, arguing the move to avoid a trial set a precedent.

“They created a new precedent saying you don’t even have to vote on the articles (of impeachment),” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told reporters off the Senate floor.

Missouri Republican Eric Schmitt warned that voters would remember the Senate’s decision in the November elections.

“They see what a disaster the border’s been,” he said to reporters.

Congressional Democrats and the White House have criticized Republicans’ efforts to impeach Mayorkas as political and campaign fodder for the November elections. Congressional Republicans and the Biden administration have clashed over immigration policy for years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Wednesday it was senators’ constitutional duty to hold a trial.

“It is the job of this body to consider the articles of impeachment brought before us and to render judgment,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor.

Even if a trial had been held, it’s unlikely that the two-thirds majority in the Senate required to remove Mayorkas could have been reached.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said House Republicans have not provided the necessary evidence to warrant an impeachment effort.

“Secretary Mayorkas spent months helping a bipartisan group of Senators craft a tough but fair bill that would give DHS the tools necessary to meet today’s border security challenges, but the same House Republicans playing political games with this impeachment chose to block that bipartisan compromise,” the spokesperson said.

“Congressional Republicans should stop wasting time with unfounded attacks, and instead do their job by passing bipartisan legislation to properly fund the Department’s vital national security missions and finally fix our broken immigration system.”

Amid the impeachment proceedings in the Senate, Mayorkas has been making his rounds on Capitol Hill to defend the president’s fiscal year 2025 budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

White House Spokesperson for Oversight and Investigations Ian Sams praised the Senate’s decision in a statement.

“Once and for all, the Senate has rightly voted down this baseless impeachment that even conservative legal scholars said was unconstitutional,” he said.

Several votes

Washington state Democrat Sen. Patty Murray presided over the impeachment proceedings, which included several votes Wednesday afternoon.

Schumer tried to approve by unanimous consent a structure for the trial, including debate time and the number of points of order senators could make, but Schmitt objected.

“I will not assist Sen. Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze,” he said.

Schumer then raised a point of order declaring that the first article of impeachment did not rise to high crimes under the constitution, leading to a series of Republican senators demanding votes on proposals to delay a vote on Schumer’s motion

Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, moved to go to closed session and debate the articles of impeachment but Schumer objected. GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah made the same motion. Senators voted on both motions and rejected them 49-51.

Sen. John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, made a motion to adjourn the court of impeachment and begin impeachment proceedings on April 30 at noon.

Kennedy’s motion failed 49-51.

GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida made the same motion to adjourn, which also failed 49-51.

They went back to the point of order Schumer made that declared the first article of impeachment was unconstitutional. The Senate voted, 51-48, to reject the first article of impeachment on the grounds that it did not rise to the constitutional standard for impeachment, with Murkowski voting present.

Schumer made an identical point of order on the second article of impeachment.

Kennedy again filed a motion to adjourn to May 1, 2004 for impeachment proceedings. He corrected his request to 2024. It again failed 49-51.

GOP Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas then made a motion to adjourn until Nov. 6 until after the election and “before this body disrespects the Constitution.”  It failed 49-51.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, moved to table Schumer’s second point of order that the second article of impeachment is unconstitutional. It failed 49-51.

Senators then approved Schumer’s second motion, 51-49.

House action

Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been at the forefront of impeachment efforts against Mayorkas, first introducing the measure in September.

Greene is also a House impeachment manager, along with GOP Reps. Mark Green of Tennessee, Michael McCaul of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Michael Guest of Mississippi, Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Laurel Lee of Florida and August Pfluger of Texas.

Two of the impeachment managers, Biggs and Higgins, came to the Senate Wednesday to watch that chamber’s proceedings.

The two articles of impeachment charged Mayorkas with not complying with federal immigration law and breaching the public trust.

The first article of impeachment accused Mayorkas of contributing to myriad problems, including rising profits for smuggling operations, a high backlog of asylum cases in immigration courts, fentanyl-related deaths and migrant children found working in dangerous jobs. Republican state legislatures have moved to roll back child labor laws in industries from the food industry to roofing.

Republicans argued that the first article of impeachment would hold Mayorkas accountable for the large number of migrants that have traveled to the southern border to claim asylum. The Biden administration is dealing with the largest number of migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border in 20 years.

The second article of impeachment charged Mayorkas with breaching public trust by making several statements in congressional testimony that Republicans argue are false, such as Mayorkas telling lawmakers that the southern border is “secure.”

The second article also charged Mayorkas with not fulfilling his statutory duty by rolling back Trump-era policies such as terminating contracts that would have continued construction of the border wall and ending the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy that was ended after it went up to the Supreme Court.

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: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.