WASHINGTON (AP) — Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday, but it’s not at all certain the do-over vote will produce a better tally after last week’s politically embarrassing setback.
The evening vote is expected to be tight with Speaker Mike Johnson’s threadbare GOP majority unable to handle many defectors or absences in the face of staunch Democratic opposition to impeaching Mayorkas, the first Cabinet secretary facing charges in nearly 150 years.
Despite the expected arrival of Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who will bolster the GOP numbers, after being away from Washington for cancer care, even one other missing or weather-delayed lawmaker could imperil the Mayorkas impeachment.
If the vote pushes later into the week, the outcome of Tuesday’s special election in New York to replace ousted Rep. George Santos could tip the balance further.
Johnson posted a fists-clenched photo with Scalise, announcing his remission from cancer, saying, “looking forward to having him back in the trenches this week!”
The GOP effort to impeach Mayorkas over border security has taken on an air of political desperation as Republicans try to make good on their priorities after last week’s mishap and after Republicans rejected a bipartisan Senate border security package.
Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden of the 3rd District, voted for impeachment, while GOP colleague Mike Gallagher, in Wisconsin’s 8th District, voted against it, then announced his retirement Saturday.
Border security has shot to the top of campaign issues, with Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, insisting he will launch “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history” on day one if he retakes the White House.
In stark language over the weekend, Trump debased immigrant arrivals. even going so far as to suggest without evidence they bring disease into the U.S. Trump reiterated his plans of a second-term roundup to remove potentially millions of newcomers from the U.S., a spectacle practically unseen in modern times.
“We have no choice,” Trump said at a rally in South Carolina.
The House, which launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over his son’s business dealings, has instead turned its attention to Mayorkas after Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia pushed the debate forward.
If the House succeeds in impeaching Mayorkas, the charges against him would go to the Senate for a trial, but neither Democratic nor Republican senators have shown interest in the matter and it may be indefinitely shelved to a committee.
After a months-long investigation, the House Homeland Security Committee filed two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas — arguing that he “willfully and systematically” refused to enforce existing immigration laws and that he breached the public trust by lying to Congress and saying the border was secure.
Never before has a sitting Cabinet secretary been impeached, and it was nearly 150 years ago that the House voted to impeach President Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap, over a kickback scheme in government contracts. He resigned moments before the vote.
Mayorkas, who did not appear to testify before the impeachment proceedings, put the border crisis squarely on Congress for failing to update immigration laws during a time of global migration.
“There is no question that we have a challenge, a crisis at the border,” Mayorkas said over the weekend on NBC. “And there is no question that Congress needs to fix it.”
Johnson and the Republicans have pushed back, arguing that the Biden administration could take executive actions, as Trump did, to stop the number of crossings — though the courts have questioned and turned back some of those efforts.
“We always explore what options are available to us that are permissible under the law,” Mayorkas said in the interview.
Last week’s failed vote to impeach Mayorkas — a surprise outcome rarely seen on such a high-profile issue — was a stunning display in the chamber that has been churning through months of GOP chaos since the ouster of the previous House speaker.
As the clock ticked down, three Republicans opposed impeaching Mayorkas, leaving the tally at razor’s edge. With a 219-212 majority and Scalise absent, Johnson had just a few votes to spare.
One Democrat, Rep, Al Green of Texas, who had been hospitalized for emergency abdominal surgery, made a surprise arrival, wheeled into the chamber in scrubs and socks to vote against it — leaving the vote tied.
One of the Republican holdouts, Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who had served as a Marine and is now a committee chairman, was quickly encircled by colleagues, including the impeachment’s chief sponsor, Georgia’s Greene. He refused to change his vote.
Gallagher announced over the weekend he would not be seeking reelection in the fall. Once a rising star as a next generation of the GOP, he now joins a growing list of serious-minded Republican lawmakers heading for the exits.
Republicans are hopeful the New York special election will boost their ranks further, but the outcome of that race is uncertain.
Democrat Green of Texas is now out of the hospital and recuperating from surgery, and was amazed at how critics suggested he was sneaked into the Capitol to vote. He described the painstaking effort to get from his hospital bed to the House floor.
“Obviously, you feel good when you can make a difference,” said Green. “All I did was what I was elected to do, and that was to cast my vote on the issues of our time, using the best judgment available to me.”
He plans to be there again this week to vote against Mayorkas’ impeachment.