Home U.S. News Republicans Scrounge for Votes to Impeach Mayorkas Over Border

Republicans Scrounge for Votes to Impeach Mayorkas Over Border

Republicans Scrounge for Votes to Impeach Mayorkas Over Border

The House is set to vote on Tuesday on impeaching Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, on charges that he has willfully refused to enforce border laws and breached the public trust, as Republicans pursue a partisan indictment of President Biden’s immigration policies.

But with just hours to go before the planned vote, it was unclear whether leaders would have enough G.O.P. support to charge Mr. Mayorkas. With Republicans in control of the House by a minuscule margin — and Democrats solidly opposed — they can afford no more than two defections. Two of their members have already said they will vote no, with a few others still publicly undecided.

On Tuesday morning, Representative Tom McClintock, Republican of California, announced that he would vote against the charges, joining Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, who had already vowed to break with his party on the matter. A handful of other Republicans remained on the fence, and at least one of them — Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin — voiced concerns with the charges in a closed-door party meeting Tuesday morning.

Skeptics have privately warned that if the House impeaches Mr. Mayorkas now, making him the first sitting cabinet member to suffer that fate, future Republican cabinet members could be subjected to the same treatment.

“I respect everybody’s view on it,” Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters Tuesday as he emerged from the meeting. “I understand the heavy weight that impeachment is.”

“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,” Mr. Johnson added, calling impeachment “an extreme measure, but extreme times call for extreme measures.”

Republicans are pressing forward despite the assessment of legal experts, including some prominent conservatives, that Mr. Mayorkas has not committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional threshold for impeachment. In a lengthy statement released Tuesday morning, Mr. McClintock said he agreed with that assessment.

“They fail to identify an impeachable crime that Mayorkas has committed,” Mr. McClintock wrote, adding that the charges “stretch and distort the Constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law.”

The move is an escalation of Republicans’ efforts to attack Mr. Biden and Democrats over immigration, as the two parties clash over how best to secure the border during an election year when the issue is expected to take center stage in the presidential campaign.

House Republicans are pushing forward with the impeachment as they work to kill a bipartisan deal that emerged in the Senate pairing a fresh infusion of funding for Ukraine with a border crackdown. They have argued that the measure is too weak and that neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Mayorkas can be trusted to secure the border.

If Mr. Mayorkas is impeached, the charges would go to the Democratic-led Senate for a trial where he is all but certain to be acquitted. Leaders have yet to say whether they would hold a full trial, in which a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict the homeland security secretary, or try to dismiss the charges outright without hearing them.

The measure set for a vote on Tuesday also would appoint 11 impeachment managers to argue the case against Mr. Mayorkas in the Senate, including Representative Mark E. Green, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, who has led the charge to bring him up on constitutional charges and seek his removal. The group also includes Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ben Cline of Virginia, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Michael Guest of Mississippi, Harriet M. Hageman of Wyoming, Laurel Lee of Florida, Michael McCaul of Texas and August Pfluger of Texas.

House Democrats have roundly rejected the impeachment effort, accusing Republicans of misusing a constitutional tool meant to be used only against officials who have committed crimes or abused their offices.

“This sham impeachment effort isn’t really about border security; it’s about Republican politics and subversion of the Constitution,” said Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the senior Democrat on the homeland security panel, accusing Republicans of “taking their marching orders from Donald Trump.”

The influence of Mr. Trump as he tries to return to the White House has loomed large over the immigration debate on Capitol Hill, particularly when it comes to the Senate’s border deal, which he has been campaigning against. House Republicans have also frequently cited his immigration legacy as they make their case against Mr. Mayorkas, whom they accuse of dismantling the former president’s border policies for political purposes.

The first article of impeachment accuses Mr. Mayorkas of replacing Trump-era policies such as the program commonly called Remain in Mexico, which required many migrants to wait at the southwestern border for their immigration court dates, with “catch and release” policies that allowed migrants to roam free in the United States. Republicans charge that he ignored multiple mandates of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that migrants “shall be detained” pending decisions on asylum and removal orders, and acted beyond his authority to parole migrants into the country.

Democrats have pushed back forcefully, noting that Mr. Mayorkas, like previous homeland security secretaries, has the right to set policies to manage the waves of migrants arriving at the border. That includes allowing certain migrants into the country temporarily on humanitarian grounds and prioritizing which migrants to detain, particularly when working with limited resources.

The second article accuses Mr. Mayorkas of breaching the public trust by misrepresenting the state of the border, and stymieing congressional efforts to investigate him. Republicans base those accusations on an assertion by Mr. Mayorkas in 2022 that his department had “operational control” over the border, which is defined under a 2006 statute as the absence of any unlawful crossings of migrants or drugs. Mr. Mayorkas has said he was referring instead to a less absolute definition used by the Border Patrol.

They also accuse Mr. Mayorkas of having failed to produce documents, including materials he was ordered to give them under subpoena, during an investigation into his border policies and evading their efforts to get him to testify as part of their impeachment proceedings. Administration officials have countered that Mr. Mayorkas has produced tens of thousands of pages of documents in accordance with the panel’s requests. He offered to testify in person, but Republicans on the panel rescinded their invitation for him to appear after the two sides encountered scheduling problems.

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