Republicans Impeach Homeland Secretary in Historic, Divisive Vote

Senate Prepares for Historic Cabinet Member Impeachment Proceedings

by Zain ul Abedin
Republicans Impeach Homeland Secretary in Historic, Divisive Vote
© Candice Ward/Getty Images

In a contentious move, the House of Representatives, dominated by Republicans, passed a resolution on Tuesday night to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The decision, resulting from what the GOP deems a failure to enforce border laws amidst an escalating illegal immigration crisis, marks only the second Cabinet impeachment in U.S.

history, following William Belknap in 1876. This bold action, however, faces criticism from both parties, with some Republicans and many Democrats suggesting the impeachment is more a policy dispute than a response to specific criminal allegations.

Mayorkas has dismissed the accusations as unfounded. Despite this, conservatives continue to question his competency. The Senate, with its Democratic majority, is expected to reject the impeachment articles. Speaker Mike Johnson, in a post-vote statement, held Mayorkas accountable for "fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history," emphasizing the gravity of impeachment as a constitutional authority of the House.

In contrast, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson condemned the impeachment as a baseless attack against a public servant with over two decades of law enforcement and public service experience. The impeachment passed with a narrow margin of 214-213 votes, exclusively Republican, barring three GOP members who sided with Democrats.

Notably, Representatives Judy Chu and Lois Frankel, along with Republican Reps. Brian Mast and Maria Salazar, abstained from voting. The consistent opposition from Republican Reps. Ken Buck, Mike Gallagher, and Tom McClintock also marked the vote.

The Senate is set to conduct a trial, requiring a two-thirds majority for conviction, an outcome deemed unlikely. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the impeachment as a "sham," reflecting the Democratic view that this act is more about challenging President Joe Biden's border policies than addressing Mayorkas's actions.

Public opinion appears to be critical of Biden's immigration policy management. Biden himself criticized the House vote, predicting a harsh historical judgment on this act of "unconstitutional partisanship."

Mayorkas Impeachment Trial

Senate proceedings will commence after a two-week recess, with the impeachment managers presenting their case following the recess and Senators being sworn in as jurors thereafter.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray will oversee the trial. The impeachment centers on accusations against Mayorkas of a "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and a "breach of public trust" amidst a surge in unauthorized migrant crossings.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green spearheaded the investigation, citing Mayorkas's discussions on "operational control" of the U.S. border, a term defined by Congress to mean zero illegal crossings. Mayorkas has argued that no administration has achieved this under the current definition, advocating for a more realistic interpretation of operational control.

Green contends that Mayorkas's conduct, whether criminal or not, amounts to gross incompetence and a betrayal of public trust. He lauded the impeachment as a stand against lawlessness, reflecting national security concerns.

Conversely, critics like Rep. Buck argue the impeachment is more a political disagreement than a legal issue, noting the Biden administration's record on migrant removals, returns, and expulsions. The impeachment follows a previous unsuccessful attempt, which marked a setback for Speaker Johnson and GOP leadership.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, recently cleared for travel post-cancer treatment, played a pivotal role in garnering support for the successful second vote. Mayorkas, on NBC's "Meet the Press," acknowledged the border migrant influx as a longstanding problem, stressing the need for legislative action to overhaul the system.

The Senate's recent failure to pass a foreign aid bill with border provisions, despite months of negotiation and Mayorkas's involvement, underscores the political complexities surrounding border policy reform.