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U.S. House Republicans impeach Homeland Security chief Mayorkas on second try

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Ariana Figueroa, Georgia Recorder
February 13, 2024

WASHINGTON — In their second attempt in as many weeks, U.S. House Republicans impeached Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday, marking an inflection point in the growing rift between the GOP and the White House over immigration policy decisions at the southern border.

In a 214-213 vote, the House approved two articles of impeachment that charged Mayorkas with willfully ignoring immigration law and lying to Congress about the status of border security. It is only the second time in history that a Cabinet member has been impeached; William Belknap, the secretary of war and a former Iowa state legislator, was impeached in 1876.

A vote on the same resolution failed spectacularly last week, 214-216, while House GOP Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana was absent due to ongoing cancer treatments. Republican Blake Moore of Utah switched his vote from “yes” to “no” as a procedural move to allow the resolution to be reconsidered.

“House Republicans are far from done,” House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green of Tennessee wrote on X before the Tuesday vote. “Secretary Mayorkas has sparked the worst border crisis in American history, and it’s long past time for him to be impeached.”

Green held several hearings on impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas.

All House Democrats present and three Republicans voted against the two articles of impeachment. Critics of the process have said a Cabinet official should not be impeached over what they say are policy disputes.

The Republicans who voted against impeachment were Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Tom McClintock of California.

President Joe Biden slammed House Republicans, calling the impeachment vote “petty political games.”

“Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant who came to the United States with his family as political refugees, has spent more than two decades serving America with integrity in a decorated career in law enforcement and public service,” Biden said.  “Instead of staging political stunts like this, Republicans with genuine concerns about the border should want Congress to deliver more border resources and stronger border security.”

Following the vote, Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for DHS, said in a statement that “House Republicans will be remembered by history for trampling on the Constitution for political gain rather than working to solve the serious challenges at our border.”

The Senate will be required under the Constitution to hold an impeachment trial. Conviction would require a vote by two-thirds of that chamber.

According to the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House impeachment managers will present the articles of impeachment to the Senate when the chamber returns later this month. Senators will be sworn in as jurors in the trial the next day. Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, will preside.

Immigration clash 

The impeachment effort, initiated by Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome, is perhaps the most high-profile example of the growing clash between Democrats and Republicans on how to handle an unprecedented number of migrants at the southern border.

Tensions have only increased after Senate Republicans tanked a bipartisan border security deal last week. The agreement would have significantly overhauled U.S. immigration law by creating a temporary procedure to shut down the border during active times and raising the bar for asylum claims.

The border security deal, which was tied to a $95 billion security package, died in the Senate after Republicans fell in line with GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has centered his campaign on stoking fears about immigration at the southern border.

The global security package passed early Tuesday without the immigration deal. 

House Democrats have decried the efforts to impeach Mayorkas as political, while Republicans have argued that Mayorkas should be held accountable for what they have deemed a “crisis” at the southern border.

The first article of impeachment accuses Mayorkas of a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law,” and the second accuses him of a breach of public trust by making false statements during congressional testimony, particularly citing statements by Mayorkas telling lawmakers the border is “secure.”

Two impeachment votes

Due to House Republicans’ razor-thin majority and absences last week, House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana could only afford to lose two votes during the first impeachment vote, on Feb. 6. Scalise was back in Washington on Tuesday, giving Republicans the margin they needed to overcome three members voting with Democrats.

The same GOP lawmakers who voted against the second impeachment also voted against the first — Buck, McClintock and Gallagher.

Gallagher, who was a key holdout in the effort to impeach Mayorkas, announced shortly after that he would not seek reelection.

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Gallagher explained his vote against impeachment, expressing concern about the precedent it would set.

“Creating a new, lower standard for impeachment, one without any clear limiting principle, wouldn’t secure the border or hold President Biden accountable,” he wrote. “It would only further pry open the Pandora’s box of perpetual impeachment.”

The White House said in a statement last week that impeaching Mayorkas “would be an unprecedented and unconstitutional act of political retribution that would do nothing to solve the challenges our Nation faces in securing the border.”

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.