House Republicans took a critical step early Wednesday toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as they project confidence they’ll be able to recommend booting the Cabinet official on the House floor.
The House Homeland Security Committee voted 18-15 to advance articles of impeachment, which accuse Mayorkas of “breach of trust” and “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law.” The vote paves the way for the impeachment articles to come to the floor next week — depending on absences and if Republicans can shore up a swath of undecided members.
Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) has publicly been cagey about whether he’ll ultimately be able to impeach Mayorkas. But he was overheard Monday night saying that he has the votes — a prediction he also made during a recent TV interview.
However, it’s still not clear they currently have the necessary near-unanimous support. Given united Democratic opposition and an incredibly thin majority, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes at full attendance. Green is expected to meet with some of the holdouts this week. And Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said leadership will also check in with members this week, but that he “imagined” they will ultimately have the votes.
Impeaching Mayorkas from office would be a historic step — a Cabinet official has only been impeached once before, in 1876 — but would certainly end without a conviction in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Lawmakers in the upper chamber are currently trying to negotiate a border security deal with the Biden administration, including Mayorkas, which House Republicans have repeatedly signaled they plan to spike.
“We are here today not because we want to be but because we have exhausted all other options. … Secretary Mayorkas’ actions have forced our hand,” Green said during Tuesday’s committee meeting.
Republicans’ charges against Mayorkas include: He didn’t uphold immigration laws, exceeded his authority, risked public safety, made false statements to Congress and obstructed congressional oversight as well as the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Mayorkas, in a letter to Green on Tuesday morning, called those allegations “baseless and inaccurate.” And he defended the department, saying that DHS has “provided Congress and your committee hours of testimony, thousands of documents, hundreds of briefings and much more information that demonstrates quite clearly how we are enforcing the law.”
The right flank has exerted intense pressure on House Republicans to impeach President Joe Biden or a top administration official. A previous attempt to impeach Mayorkas last year failed, when firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) forced the matter to the House floor. Eight GOP lawmakers voted to refer the matter to Green’s committee, which was already conducting a long-term investigation into Mayorkas.
Most of those eight are expected to back impeaching Mayorkas now. But Republicans view two as their most likely “no” votes: Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). McClintock told reporters Tuesday that he was waiting to see what came out of the committee, but has previously warned that he didn’t think Mayorkas’ behavior met the bar of an impeachable offense. Buck, meanwhile, described himself as a “lean no.”
And there are other undecided votes outside those eight, as well, including Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio). Newhouse told POLITICO on Monday night that he was waiting to see what came out of the committee, while Joyce is expected to meet with Green on Wednesday.
But leadership picked up at least one notable flip on Monday night when Biden-district Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who had been undecided, told reporters that he would now back impeaching Mayorkas.
“I think there’s been a dereliction of duty. There’s laws that have not been complied with and we’re suffering one of the worst crises in our country,” Bacon said.
Many of those holdouts had expressed skepticism that investigators have met the bar of a high crime or misdemeanor, a concern shared by legal scholars. Democrats have staunchly opposed attempts to impeach Mayorkas, laying out that argument in a 29-page report they released on Monday pre-butting the committee’s vote.
“House Republicans have produced no evidence that Secretary Mayorkas has broken the law. This is a political stunt and a hit job ordered by two people: Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Monday.
Olivia Beavers contributed reporting.