Mayorkas Escapes Historic Impeachment Vote in Major Setback for House GOP

In a dramatic embarrassment for Republicans, the House on Tuesday narrowly rejected impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the southern border after a small group of Republicans broke with their party.

The deeply partisan effort charged Mayorkas with failing to properly enforce the nation’s immigration laws amid a record surge of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and breaching the public’s trust. But constitutional scholars warned that the evidence amounted to a policy dispute that does not reach the high bar of impeachment and could degrade the seriousness of the impeachment process.

In the end, four Republicans and all Democrats voted against impeachment. It was a stunning scene on the House floor, as Republicans kept the vote open for several minutes as Democrats cheered. Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican who voted against the effort, criticized his party for “bad politics and bad policy” in a statement on Tuesday. “The problem is that they fail to identify an impeachable crime that Mayorkas has committed,” McClintock wrote. “In effect, they stretch and distort the Constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law.” He also warned that impeaching Mayorkas would set a precedent for future impeachment efforts against Republican cabinet members.

Most Republicans pushed ahead anyway, vowing to hold the Biden Administration accountable for what they perceive as a failure in managing migrant crossings and enforcing immigration laws. In hearings, they alleged that Mayorkas disregarded laws passed by Congress, ignored court orders, knowingly making false statements about the U.S.-Mexico border, and allowed the surge of migration by ending several Trump-era immigration policies.

Mayorkas pushed back against these claims in a letter to the House committee investigating him on Jan. 30, noting his efforts to increase deportation flights, upgrade technology used to detect fentanyl, and restrict asylum access for migrants who bypass legal pathways to the U.S. “Undoubtedly, we have policy disagreements on the historically divisive issue of immigration,” Mayorkas said. “That has been the case between Administrations and Members of Congress for much longer than the past 38 years since the last overhaul of our immigration system.”

The border has become a partisan battleground in recent months. The number of illegal border crossings have hit record-highs, with Border Patrol agents arresting 250,000 migrants caught crossing the border in December, up 31% from November. “I don’t believe there’s ever been a Cabinet secretary who so blatantly, openly, willfully and without remorse did the exact opposite of what federal law asked him to do,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, said Tuesday. “There is no other measure for Congress to take but this one.”

The fact that the impeachment failed in the House is a major defeat for Johnson, who had promised his far-right flank that he would make Mayorkas the first impeached Cabinet official in nearly 150 years. After Tuesday’s vote, Johnson said the House GOP would try again to impeach Mayorkas when they corral enough votes.

The failed impeachment vote comes as Republicans have also threatened to tank the Senate’s bipartisan border security bill, with Johnson describing it as “dead on arrival” in the House. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden blamed former President Donald Trump for being behind the effort to kill the border bill on the Senate floor after he urged Republicans to refuse to help the Biden Administration address the border situation. “He’d rather weaponize this issue than actually solve it,” Biden said.

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Nik Popli