The House delivered a reprieve to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday, narrowly derailing an effort to impeach him.
Lawmakers voted 209-201 to refer an article of impeachment to the Homeland Security Committee rather than take it up immediately.
Eight Republicans joined 201 Democrats in voting to rescue Mr. Mayorkas from becoming the first sitting Cabinet member ever to be impeached.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, forced the vote over the objection of some colleagues who saw the move as premature. It bypassed the usual impeachment process of an official “impeachment inquiry,” complete with hearings and the opportunity for Mr. Mayorkas’ supporters to mount a defense.
Other Republicans said those procedural questions were distractions from the big question: whether Mr. Mayorkas has failed so badly that he needed to be removed.
“A vote with the Democrats is a vote to protect Mayorkas and against impeachment,” Ms. Greene said in an email to supporters ahead of the vote, asking them to pressure their members of Congress. “Mayorkas is breaking the law by not enforcing the law.”
Her resolution accused Mr. Mayorkas of allowing an “invasion” at the border, violating the Constitution with his lack of action to enforce laws, and endangering the public with record amounts of fentanyl and people on the terrorism watch list flooding into the country.
Mayorkas backers said the impeachment push was more about politics than high crimes and misdemeanors, the standard the Constitution sets for impeaching a U.S. officer.
“While the House Majority has wasted months trying to score points with baseless attacks, Secretary Mayorkas has been doing his job and working to keep Americans safe,” said Mia Ehrenberg, Mr. Mayorkas’ spokeswoman.
The eight Republicans who voted to block impeachment were Reps. Cliff Bentz of Oregon; Ken Buck of Colorado; Tom McClintock, John Duarte and Darrell Issa of California; Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina; and Mike Turner of Ohio.
Republicans have talked about impeaching Mr. Mayorkas since the early days of his tenure. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California put it on his to-do list as speaker after it was clear the Republicans would take control of the chamber in the wake of last year’s elections.
It quickly became clear that a significant number of Republican lawmakers wouldn’t vote for impeachment.
Mr. McCarthy assigned committees to investigate Mr. Mayorkas with an eye toward building the case for impeachment. It was not an official impeachment inquiry, but most members viewed it as the precursor to an inquiry.
The Homeland Security Committee has since released a series of reports accusing the secretary of repeated “dereliction of duty.” The committee said Mr. Mayorkas broke the border, enriched the violent smuggling cartels, misled Congress and piled massive new burdens on Americans.
A fourth installment report was released Monday, just hours before the impeachment vote. It tried to calculate the cost of illegal immigration to American taxpayers, citing one estimate that said it costs New York as much as $150,000 per person for a year’s worth of care.
The mounting border chaos has swung some Republicans, but not enough to pass Ms. Greene’s resolution.
Impeachment is supposed to come through the Judiciary Committee.
Ms. Greene complained that she had to force the issue to the floor because that committee hadn’t acted despite what she called overwhelming evidence that the secretary had failed.
“My articles of impeachment sit collecting dust, with the others, while Americans die every single day,” she said.
The vote did little to cool Republicans’ anger toward Mr. Mayorkas, who has become a punching bag for lawmakers frustrated at having seen a border relatively under control in the Trump administration turn into chaos under President Biden.
“I think your performance is despicable,” Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, told the secretary in a hearing last month.
Mr. Mayorkas fired back, calling Mr. Hawley “adversarial” and “disrespectful.”
During a hearing in July, one House Republican said Mr. Mayorkas “should be ashamed” of his performance. Another accused him of lying about the pace of fentanyl trafficking. A third called him “the most dishonest witness that has ever appeared before the Judiciary Committee.”
That last comment came from Rep. Mike Johnson, who has since become speaker of the House, taking over for Mr. McCarthy.
Only one Cabinet official has ever been impeached: Secretary of War William Belknap, in 1876, a month after he resigned. The Senate held a trial but couldn’t muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict him.
Even had the House voted Monday to impeach Mr. Mayorkas, the chances of getting a two-thirds majority in the Democratic-led Senate would have been essentially zero.
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