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House GOP advances impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas

A House Committee is set to advance articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the U.S. border with Mexico.
Jose Luis Magana
A House Committee is set to advance articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the U.S. border with Mexico.

Updated January 31, 2024 at 1:16 AM ET

The House Committee on Homeland Security voted early Wednesday along party lines to approve articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the influx of migrants crossing the U.S. border with Mexico.

The two articles charge Mayorkas with "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" in enforcing border policy and "breach of public trust." The House is expected to vote as early as this week.

Over the course of more than 10 hours, members argued over whether Mayorkas committed any high crimes and misdemeanors, which is the standard for impeachment.

Committee Chairman Mark Greene, R-Tenn., argued Mayorkas has not lived up to his oath to the Constitution, and "the results have been catastrophic and have endangered the lives and livelihoods of all Americans."

If the GOP-controlled House does approve the articles of impeachment, the process would then move to the Senate for a trial on whether to convict Mayorkas and remove him from office. It is highly unlikely that the Democratic-controlled Senate will convict Mayorkas — a process that would require the support of two-thirds of senators.

Some Senate Republicans have said that President Biden, not Secretary Mayorkas, is charged with setting immigration policy, and replacing him would not change the administration's policy.

Mayorkas defended his actions, and the actions of his agency in a letter sent to the committee on Tuesday. He argued that Congress has failed to provide the administration the tools and legal authority needed to address the issues at the border.

"We need a legislative solution and only Congress can provide it," Mayorkas said in the letter. "I have been privileged to join a bipartisan group of United States Senators these past several months to provide technical and operational expertise in support of their efforts to strengthen our country's border security. These efforts would yield significant new enforcement tools and make a substantial difference at our border."

GOP case centers on argument secretary not enforcing law

Committee Republicans argued throughout the hearing that Mayorkas has not cooperated with their impeachment investigation and dismissed his statement as inadequate.

"This is not about policy differences at all," Greene said, "it goes far deeper." He summed up the GOP case against the DHS secretary, saying, "Secretary Mayorkas has put his political preferences above following the law."

The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., railed on the GOP action as a "sham" and "pre-determined," citing reports of Greene and other GOP lawmakers fundraising off of their plans to oust Mayorkas.

Thompson argued if House Republicans were serious they would fund additional efforts at the border and work with the Senate on bipartisan legislation to address the crisis at the border.

"They don't want progress," Thompson said. "They don't want solutions. They want a political issue. And most of all, they want to please their disgraced former President."

Democrats released their own report detailing their opposition to the committee's impeachment investigation.

Impeachment comes as Senate bipartisan border deal emerging

Thompson said the GOP House was "taking their marching orders from Donald Trump" who urged congressional Republicans to oppose any Senate immigration deal.

A group of senators from both parties is on the verge of unveiling the details of a proposal, as soon as this week, aimed at reducing the record numbers of migrants crossing the Southwest border. It includes a provision that would empower the president to shut down the border when the numbers of those attempting to enter the U.S. hits a certain threshold. Biden has said he would sign the bill.

Democrats argued that the GOP case against Mayorkas was unconstitutional and that policy differences were not an impeachable offenses.

Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., emphasized that Mayorkas was carrying out administration's policies, and disagreeing with those policies, "is for elections, that is for legislation."

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has not committed to an exact time for a vote on the House floor but he has committed to moving swiftly once the committee completes its work. But the speaker can only afford to lose a handful of votes, given the his slim House majority.

"The law's not being complied with," said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a moderate member who voiced his support for the impeachment effort this week after initially expressing skepticism.

"This president and the secretary have not lived up to their obligations, and I say that with no glee," Bacon said.

Only one Cabinet official has been impeached in U.S. history: William Belknap, who served as President Ulysses Grant's secretary of war in 1876. He resigned after bribery allegations related to money he received in exchange for tapping someone to run a trading post on Native American lands. But the House still impeached him. He was ultimately acquitted by the Senate, after becoming a private citizen.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.

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