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House stalls impeachment of Homeland Secretary Mayorkas for handling of immigration

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
Alex Brandon
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

WASHINGTON — The House voted Monday to push off a Republican effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, ending for now a threat against the Cabinet secretary that has been brewing ever since Republicans took the House majority in January.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a hard-right Republican from Georgia, forced a vote on impeaching Mayorkas to the floor through a rule that allows any single member to force a snap vote on resolutions, including constitutional matters such as impeachment. Eight Republicans joined with Democrats to vote 209-201 to send her resolution to committees for possible consideration, like any other bill. They are under no obligation to do anything.

Impeachment is usually reserved for grave misconduct in office but is instead being wielded in an extraordinary effort to remove Mayorkas for his handling of the southern border. The vote and its GOP support showed a growing appetite to reach for Congress' most powerful weapons and redefine what the Constitution means by impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors." Impeaching a Cabinet official for their policy decisions would be unprecedented.

Greene in a floor speech Monday accused Mayorkas of a "pattern of conduct that is incompatible with the laws of the United States," as she cited record numbers of illegal border crossings, an influx of drugs and his "open border policies." The impeachment resolution accuses him of failing to adhere to his oath to "defend and secure our country and uphold the Constitution."

After the vote, Greene said she may try again to push an impeachment vote to the floor and argued her colleagues would face pressure from voters to impeach Mayorkas.

"Many Republicans, I would argue, are really tone deaf to their constituents and to their voters," she said.

Several prominent Republicans have become outspoken advocates of pushing forward on the GOP's longstanding effort to impeach Mayorkas. House GOP whip Tom Emmer, the No. 3 House Republican, as well as Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican whose congressional district runs along the border with Mexico, voiced support for Greene's resolution.

During congressional testimony, Mayorkas has insisted that he is focused on securing the border and enforcing the law.

"While the House Majority has wasted months trying to score points with baseless attacks, Secretary Mayorkas has been doing his job and working to keep Americans safe," a DHS spokesperson said in a statement.

Greene's resolution also calls the influx of migrants an "invasion." Immigration advocates denounced her use of the term, saying it showed she was acting based on the racist "great replacement theory," which purports that there is a plot to diminish the influence of white people in society.

"Rep. Greene's impeachment articles are a dangerous and racist political stunt and should be voted down by all of her colleagues in the House, regardless of their opinions on the policy actions of the Biden administration," said Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America's Voice, in a statement.

Republicans have closely scrutinized the Biden administration's handling of the border with Mexico for months and sought to build an impeachment case against Mayorkas. But Greene voiced frustration with the progress of those inquiries and pointed to a car crash in Texas that killed eight people after a driver suspected of smuggling people tried to flee the police and crashed into another vehicle.

The renewed push to impeach Mayorkas is yet another headache for new House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is already juggling both a potential impeachment vote and delicate negotiations over government funding legislation to avert a federal shutdown at the end of the week.

Johnson earlier this month said in a Fox News interview that he believed Mayorkas has committed "impeachable offenses," but also warned that the House has "limited time and resources." The speaker, who is just three weeks into his job, has also been supportive of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Only one U.S. cabinet official has ever been impeached: Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876. A House investigation found evidence that he had received kickback payments while administering government contracts.

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The Associated Press
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