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Mayorkas avoids impeachment, dealing a blow to House conservatives

Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be director of Homeland Security, speaks as President-elect Biden announces his national security nominees and appointees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, November 24, 2020.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Eight Republicans crossed party lines on Monday to block a GOP-led effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The vote dealt a blow to House conservatives, who had been threatening to impeach Mayorkas for at least a year.

By a final tally of 209 to 201, the House approved a motion to send the impeachment resolution back to the Homeland Security Committee for additional consideration, instead of proceeding with a floor vote.

If a floor vote had been held and Mayorkas had been impeached, he would have faced a trial in the Democratic-majority Senate, where it was difficult to see a path to the two-thirds majority needed to remove Mayorkas from his post.

Still, the Monday vote was significant because it revealed a bloc of House Republican willing to buck their party and block an impeachment that the party’s base voters would have overwhelmingly supported, but that legal experts said was on shaky grounds.

It also came amid an internal debate among House Republicans over whether to move forward with the impeachment of a much bigger target: President Joe Biden. What happened in Mayorkas’ case will doubtless inform party leaders as they consider their next steps.

In addition to the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats, another dozen or so GOP House members did not vote at all on Monday, leaving an open question of where they would have come down on the issue.

The vote came as the House scrambled to negotiate a new budget resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Congress has only four days left until the temporary spending bill adopted in late September expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday.

Ahead of the vote, a Homeland Security Department official said the vote consumed precious time needed to work out how to keep the government open. A government shutdown would force 72 percent of DHS employees to work without pay, according to the department.

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The push to impeach Mayorkas was led by high-profile GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who alleged Mayorkas had violated his oath of office by failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Greene first introduced impeachment articles against Mayorkas in May. But her most recent motion last week required the House to hold a vote. According to the impeachment motion, Mayorkas has specifically “failed to maintain operational control of the border.”

As defined by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, “operational control” means preventing “all unlawful entries.” Mayorkas has repeatedly pointed out that no administration, Republican or Democrat, has succeeded in upholding that standard.

“It is the objective of the Department of Homeland Security to have operational control. … That of course, is an impossible standard,” Mayorkas said at an April budget hearing.

A migrant climbs the border fence to cross into the U.S. to request asylum, at Playas de Tijuana, in Tijuana, Mexico October 2, 2023.

Jorge Duenes | Reuters

The number of migrants crossing into the U.S. began to rise during the Trump administration, and reached record highs last year. Many of them are fleeing gang violence and unstable political environments in places like Venezuela and Haiti.

The decisions by several Republican governors in border states to transport newly arrived migrants to big cities and drop them off has added fuel to the debate, and put new pressure on Washington to provide more money to help house and care for immigrants.

As of September, the state of Texas had transported more than 30,000 migrants on buses to cities across the country.

Last month, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois criticized the federal government’s management of the migrant crisis.

“There is much more that can and must be done on a federal level to address a national humanitarian crisis that is currently being shouldered by state and local governments without support,” he said.

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