Washington — The House is set to vote onon Tuesday after Republicans and Democrats clashed over whether his handling of the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer announced the vote on Tuesday morning.
If the vote succeeds, Mayorkas would be just the second Cabinet official to be impeached in U.S. history, and the first in almost 150 years. But the effort is all but certain to crash in the Senate, where Democrats have control and a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove him from office.
House Republicans can afford to lose just a few votes with their incredibly thin majority. They’ve already lost one vote in Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who has said that “there’s no impeachable offense.”
“It’s maladministration,” Buck said Thursday, referring to Mayorkas’ leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. “He’s terrible, the border is a disaster, but that’s not impeachable.”
Democrats say Republicans are using the impeachment push to score political points ahead of the 2024 election, with immigration being a top voter concern. They also argued that it failed to meet the bar of a high crime or misdemeanor, a criticism shared by legal experts.
Why is Mayorkas being impeached?
Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee sped through impeachment proceedings, holding just two hearings within eight days in January. Republicans announcedagainst Mayorkas without hearing testimony from him amid a disagreement about when he could appear.
The charges accuse President Biden’s top immigration official of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust” over the administration’s handling of the migrant crisis at the southern border.
The first impeachment article accuses Mayorkas of failing to enforce immigration policies, allowing for a record number of illegal border crossings in recent months. The second article alleges he lied to lawmakers about whether the southern border was secure when he previously testified that his department had “operational control” of the border. It also accuses Mayorkas of obstructing congressional oversight of his department.
GOP Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement that impeachment was necessary because Mayorkas’ “actions created this unprecedented crisis, turning every state into a border state.”
In a statement on Monday, the Biden administration said it was “an unprecedented and unconstitutional act of political retribution that would do nothing to solve the challenges our nation faces in securing the border.”
The road to impeachment
Mayorkas has been under threat of impeachment over his handling of the border since Republicans took control of the House in 2023.
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgiaagainst Mayorkas in early November, saying he had “violated his oath to uphold this constitutional duty” by allowing an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants. The House voted to refer the resolution to the Homeland Security Committee, which was already investigating Mayorkas.
Greene, outraged by the move, tried to force a vote on a second resolution targeting Mayorkas, butafter receiving assurances from House leaders the earlier effort would proceed at the committee level.
At the time, several House Republicans expressed concerns about impeaching Mayorkas, saying that his conduct did not amount to impeachable offenses.
Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security committee, said on Jan. 29 that the referral should have gone to the House Judiciary Committee. Thompson said it’s “the first-ever impeachment consideration by a committee other than the Judiciary Committee.”
“It’s unusual,” Thompson said. “It speaks of a deal being made.”
The committee announced itsin early January, with its coming eight days later. Lawmakers heard from the grieving mothers of victims of violent crime and fentanyl overdoses, as well as three state attorneys general who are suing Mayorkas. Two law professors also testified that there was not a constitutional basis for Mayorkas’ impeachment.
On Jan. 30, the committeeon a party-line vote after a lengthy markup in which Republicans faulted Mayorkas for not keeping migrants in detention and blamed him for deaths caused by fentanyl, while Democrats called the charges baseless.
“We’ve heard a lot from my Republican colleagues today about how this is our only option,” Rep. Dan Goldman, a New York Democrat, said during the markup.
He said Congress could address the problem by passing legislation, but noted that House Republicans want to sinkbetween a bipartisan group of senators and the Biden administration that is designed to reduce the unprecedented levels of illegal crossings in recent years.
House Republicans counter that they passed a border security bill known as H.R. 2 last year, though it had no Democratic support and was dead on arrival in the Senate.
Mayorkas defended himself against Republican attacks in a letter sent to the committee ahead of last week’s vote to advance the bill to the House floor.
“I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted,” Mayorkas wrote, also highlighting the department’s efforts to increase migrant deportations and combat trafficking networks.
“I will defer a discussion of the constitutionality of your current effort to the many respected scholars and experts across the political spectrum who already have opined that it is contrary to law,” he added.
Ellis Kim contributed reporting.