In a stunning and embarrassing defeat, a House GOP effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed on Tuesday as three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against what would have been only the second-ever impeachment of a Cabinet official.
The final vote was 214-216, a mere two votes shy of the 218 needed for impeachment to proceed. This outcome was made possible in part by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who unexpectedly appeared in the chamber despite recently undergoing surgery. Dressed in hospital scrubs and without socks, Green cast his decisive "no" vote, prompting outrage from both sides of the aisle. Republicans were especially angered by the fact that a fourth Republican, Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), changed his vote to "no" just seconds before the vote closed, a move that allowed the party to bring the impeachment back to the floor at a later date.
The attempt to impeach Mayorkas came about after months of a multipronged investigation into the Biden administration's border policies by the House Homeland Security Committee. However, it was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) push to impeach Mayorkas late last year that truly brought the issue to the forefront. This decision was widely credited with breathing new life into the effort and ultimately ensured that it would make it to the House floor for a vote.
Republicans who supported the impeachment argued that Mayorkas had committed "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law," claiming that he had violated immigration laws by not detaining enough migrants. However, no administration has ever been able to detain all illegal migrants, and experts on immigration law have determined that Mayorkas did not violate any laws. Additionally, Republicans also accused him of a "breach of public trust" for his handling of the border crisis.
Before the vote, moderate Republicans had already expressed their disagreement with impeaching Mayorkas, stating that they had not seen any evidence of impeachable offenses. Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.) wrote a 10-page memo opposing the move, saying that their GOP colleagues "fail to identify an impeachable crime that Mayorkas has committed.” Similarly, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), who voted against impeachment, characterized it as a policy disagreement rather than an impeachable offense.
The failure of the Mayorkas impeachment is also seen as a worrying sign for those who hope to impeach President Biden, who is the subject of a separate House GOP impeachment inquiry based on his son Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings. While some Republicans agreed to formally authorize the investigation to give legal weight to their requests, others have stated that they have yet to see any evidence of impeachable offenses by the president.
After the vote, Democrats celebrated their victory, with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) saying that Republicans had brought articles of impeachment that were "not anchored in reality." Jeffries and other Democrats accused Republicans of pursuing impeachment for political reasons, rather than for any legitimate wrongdoing by Mayorkas.
Republicans, on the other hand, were furious with their party's defections, warning that they had handed Biden and the Democrats an unwarranted victory. “Shameful," Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) said as he left the chamber.
Following the vote, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a statement encouraging Republicans to abandon their efforts to impeach Mayorkas. They argued that the impeachment was "baseless" and "unconstitutional," and called on House Republicans to support a bipartisan national security agreement instead.
Despite this loss, House Republicans remain determined to bring Mayorkas' impeachment to the floor again in the future. The speaker for House Minority Leader Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on Twitter that Republicans "fully intend to bring Articles of Impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas back to the floor when we have the votes for passage."
In the meantime, the focus will likely shift to the GOP-led House's approach to the border, as they continue to rebuff a bipartisan Senate deal aimed at addressing the ongoing migration crisis.