As House GOP launches effort to impeach Mayorkas, senators want to strike a border deal with him

FILE - Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, Nov. 8, 2023, in Washington. House Republicans are marching ahead with impeachment plans, their sights on Mayorkas as "derelict in his duty" over handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. Speaker Mike Johnson gave his nod to Wednesday's hearing at the Homeland Security Committee.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON — Marching ahead with multiple impeachment plans, House Republicans set their sights Wednesday on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who they intend to prove is “derelict in his duty” over handling the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mark Green, launched Mayorkas impeachment proceedings at a peculiar political moment: On one side of the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators has been engaged in almost daily negotiations with Mayorkas over a landmark border security package. On the other, the House wants to remove him from office.


Opening the hearing, Green, R-Tenn, said there is “no reasonable alternative but to pursue the possibility of impeachment.”

The House panel has been circling Mayorkas all year, at times expected to lurch ahead with impeachment proceedings against him as the border crossings hit record highs, topping 10,000 on some days. The number has recently dipped.

But impeaching a Cabinet secretary is rare, having only happened once before in the nation’s history when the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap in 1876 over kickbacks in government contracts. Going after an official for a policy dispute, in this instance over the claim that Mayorkas is not upholding immigration laws, is unprecedented.

“You cannot impeach a Cabinet secretary because you don’t like a president’s policies,” said the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

Thompson said evidence throughout the hearings will show that Mayorkas is, in fact, doing his job. He decried the political dysfunction coming from the House Republican majority. “This is not a legitimate impeachment,” he said.

Speaker Mike Johnson, who leads a majority that prefers conducting oversight and investigations over pursuing bipartisan legislating to resolve concerns, gave nod to the proceedings and called Mayorkas the “leading perpetrator” of the border problems. “Congress is now going to have to take the next step and hold him accountable,” he said at a press conference.

Johnson also spoke Wednesday with Biden and “strongly encouraged” the president to use his executive authority to secure the southern border, said the speaker’s spokesman, Raj Shah.

Green’s committee conducted a multi-part investigation into Mayorkas and the department but kicked the process into high gear when hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene pushed forward the impeachment resolution after Johnson won the speaker’s gavel following the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker.

It remains to be seen if the House investigation will convince lawmakers that Mayorkas’ conduct rises to the level of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” the Constitution specifies for impeachment.

The Homeland Security Department released a memo noting that Mayorkas and the bipartisan senators are working hard to find “real solutions” to fix broken immigration laws while the House majority is wasting time on “baseless and pointless political attacks” by trying to impeach him.

Sen. James Lankford, the chief GOP negotiator of the border package, who has been in almost daily negotiations involving Mayorkas, said he understands his colleagues’ frustrations. But he encouraged them to focus as he has on legislation to force Biden’s hand.

“Mayorkas is gearing up President Biden’s policies — that’s what a secretary is going to do,” Lankford told reporters. “So you can swap secretaries, the policies are going to be exactly the same.”

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