The House shelved a resolution to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday, punting on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) effort to boot the Biden administration official from his post for his handling of the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a motion to refer the impeachment resolution to the Homeland Security Committee, blocking it from coming to the floor for a vote and shielding lawmakers from having to weigh in on the matter directly. The final vote was 209-201.
Those eight Republicans were: Reps. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), John Duarte (Calif.), Virginia Foxx (N.C.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Cliff Bentz (Ore.), Ken Buck (Colo.) and Mike Turner (Ohio).
The final tally is a blow to Greene, who moved to force a vote on her resolution to impeach Mayorkas last week, accusing the Homeland Security secretary of “willful admittance of border crossers” and of violating the Secure Fence Act — a 2006 law that demands perfection at the border by declaring the border operationally secure only if no people or contraband improperly enter the country.
She introduced her impeachment resolution targeting Mayorkas in May. Greene slammed the eight Republicans who opted to table her resolution following the vote.
“I cannot believe this, I’m outraged,” Greene said, later adding, “I can assure you that Republican voters will be extremely angry that they’ve done this.”
The congresswoman also said she may force another vote on her impeachment resolution, telling reporters: “I may reintroduce them, maybe I introduce them again privileged and give them the opportunity, do they really want to do that? I’ll give ‘em some time to get phone calls in their office and talk to their constituents.”
Greene’s resolution, if successful, would have undercut the ongoing process led by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.), who has accused Mayorkas of “dereliction of duty” and is overseeing a multipart plan to analyze the secretary’s work. Green ultimately plans to hand over that body of work to the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of the impeachment process.
Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee released their interim report on the fourth phase of the investigation Monday.
Greene slammed the Homeland Security Committee on Monday, arguing that the body was slow-walking her impeachment effort.
“We have been waiting for regular order for six months, and the committee of jurisdiction in Congress has failed to act,” Greene said on the House floor. “My articles of impeachment sit collecting dust with the others while Americans die every single day.”
Greene called her impeachment measure to the floor as a privileged resolution Thursday, a procedural gambit that forces leadership to take action on the legislation within two legislative days. Democrats successfully brought a motion to refer the resolution on Monday, essentially punting on the question of whether or not Mayorkas should be impeached.
Greene’s push to fast-track Mayorkas’s impeachment divided the House GOP conference, with some backing the effort and others encouraging regular order.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) endorsed Greene’s move Sunday, writing on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “A vote to impeach Mayorkas is a vote to get our border under control. I’ll be voting to impeach.” But last week, Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, told reporters last week that he is “not interested in these peripheral impeachments.”
“If we impeach anybody, it’s going to be up to [Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)] and the Judiciary Committee to decide that he’s ready to move the impeachment inquiry to a full impeachment on President Biden,” he added.
Pressed on the fact that Greene’s procedural gambit would require a floor vote on the legislation, Duarte responded: “We’ll vote against it and move on.”
Mayorkas has long been a favorite target of House Republicans, who see border security and immigration as two of President Biden’s political weak spots.
The push to impeach Mayorkas has ebbed and flowed, with different members taking the lead to introduce articles of impeachment at different times.
But Greene’s gambit to force a vote changed the dynamic of the push.
Though each proposal has differed somewhat in its reasoning behind impeachment, the common thread is an accusation that Mayorkas has been the tip of the spear in what Republicans call Biden’s “open border” policies.
Greene’s articles share common cause with previous attempts, accusing the secretary of violating the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a hastily passed election year bill that defined “operational control” of the border as allowing zero unauthorized crossings of goods or people.
No secretary since has been called upon to literally adhere to that definition, which most law enforcement and border experts consider unrealistic.
Mayorkas, for his part, has defended himself from criticism regarding the 2006 law. During a congressional hearing in July, the secretary told lawmakers: “The Secure Fence Act, specifically the statute, defines operational control as not having one individual cross the border illegally. Under that statutory definition, no administration has achieved operational control.”
“Obviously a layer of reasonableness must be applied here,” he told lawmakers last year when asked about the law. “And looking at that definition through the lens of reasonableness, we dedicate now 24,000 personnel to the border. We are surging increased personnel, facilities and other methods of support. And in my opinion, operational controls means maximizing the resources we have to deliver the most effective results.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) slammed Greene’s effort in a statement last week, writing: “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.”
“Instead of continuing their reckless impeachment charades and attacks on law enforcement, Congress should work with us to keep our country safe, build on the progress DHS is making, and deliver desperately needed reforms for our broken immigration system that only legislation can fix,” the department added.
Greene’s articles differ from previous attempts in their rhetoric: She claims “approximately 10,000,000 illegal border crossers … have invaded our country at our border,” including 1.8 million “gotaways” who are “roaming the interior of the United States.”
Though Greene’s language aligns with base Republican sentiment, some GOP members have urged caution, saying impeachment requires them to build a more solid case.
In January’s push for impeachment led by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), fellow Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul called for the process to go through committees of jurisdiction — the tactical polar opposite from Greene’s privileged resolution forcing a vote.
By bouncing the bill back to committee, Republicans avoided a vote, essentially absolving a top Biden administration bogeyman.
But if they want to keep impeachment alive, they’ll also have to negotiate language amenable both to Greene and more centrist Republicans who would’ve sunk her articles.
In part, some Republicans have urged caution both because of any impeachment’s slim chances of leading to conviction in the Senate, and because the historical precedent shows the near impossibility of successfully impeaching a Cabinet member.
Only one Cabinet member has ever been impeached: Former President Grant’s secretary of War, William Belknap, was accused of corruption and impeached by the House, but he resigned rather than face conviction in the upper chamber.
Updated at 11:20 pm.