Monday, January 30, 2023
Jan. 30, 2023

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House GOP push to impeach DHS chief could split caucus next year

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WASHINGTON — A push from some House Republicans to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over U.S.-Mexico border security could divide the caucus as it wrangles with a narrow majority next year.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went to the border last week and vowed to investigate whether to begin an impeachment inquiry against Mayorkas if he does not resign, citing historically high border crossings that have strained government resources. Mayorkas has promised to stay in his post.

But while House Republicans are united in opposition to the Biden administration’s border policies, not everyone is persuaded that a Mayorkas impeachment is the right path. And Republicans’ slim majority in the 118th Congress means opposition from even a handful of members could frustrate impeachment efforts.

Rep. Don Bacon, who was recently reelected to his competitive Nebraska seat, is among several Republicans who are not yet sold on an effort to impeach Mayorkas.

“The base gets fired up for that, but you don’t get swing voters or moderate voters on that,” Bacon said. “I would say there’s not a consensus for impeachment, but I do think our job is to do oversight. It’s one of our jobs. It’s not the only job, but there’s gonna be oversight — and I think it’s deserved.”

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subpanel, has harshly criticized the Biden administration’s efforts to undo stringent Trump-era policies, including a partial rollback of pandemic border expulsions under Title 42 and a halt in border wall construction.

But he also seemed less than eager to begin impeachment proceedings.

“Show me treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, and I’ll consider impeachment. I’ve not seen that,” McClintock said. “I’ve seen the worst administration of that department in its history, in fact, in the history of the country. But I’ve not seen an offense that the Constitution recognizes as impeachment.”

During his press conference in El Paso, Texas, McCarthy said Mayorkas “cannot and must not” remain in his position, promising that “every order, every action and every failure” would help House Republicans decide whether to begin impeachment.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the expected chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who would play a key role in any impeachment proceedings, immediately lent his support to the plan.

McCarthy, who had downplayed the possibility of impeachments by a Republican-controlled House ahead of the election, made the comments as he faces a turbulent road to the House speakership amid skepticism from right-wing members of the caucus.

A resolution to impeach Mayorkas for high crimes and misdemeanors related to actions at the border has 32 co-sponsors. It was originally introduced in 2021 by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who challenged McCarthy for the speakership in a November House Republican Conference vote.

While some lawmakers have been calling for Mayorkas’ impeachment since 2021, McCarthy’s remarks at the border last week were his first indication of support for the plan.

Impeachment plans

The dynamic in the early months of the 118th Congress could echo what Democrats faced when they retook the majority in 2019, with lawmakers divided over how aggressively to pursue oversight efforts of the Trump administration.

Some Democrats wanted impeachment proceedings immediately, while others fretted that too much focus on oversight could alienate the independent voters who had helped secure the majority.

Four years later, many House Republicans support an eventual impeachment investigation but are wary of moving quickly and appearing too partisan.

Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, R-Texas, who is vying for the top spot on the Homeland Security Committee, drew a contrast between Democrats’ impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump and future GOP oversight efforts in the 118th Congress.

“Throughout the course of the next year, there’ll be a case built,” Crenshaw said. “It’s not going to be like, ‘Hey, we think Trump’s guilty, so let’s just find something like a weird phone call and impeach him.’ We’re not going to operate that way. It’s going to be properly done.”

Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents a competitive suburban district in Pennsylvania, warned against “jumping to any conclusions.”

“We have evidence gathering, indictments, trial and conviction,” Fitzpatrick said. “So we have a system in place where we collect evidence, we hear from all witnesses and then we make a determination. I think that’s responsible.”

Investigation imminent

Conservative lawmakers have spent months vowing to ramp up oversight on immigration, eager to highlight how crossings have strained border communities since President Joe Biden took office.

Border agents recorded nearly 2.4 million encounters with migrants during fiscal 2022, the highest number on record, though some of the recorded encounters involve the same migrants making repeated attempts at crossing.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, said “most people” in the caucus are on board with an impeachment investigation.

“I think we have a number of people in the conference — far greater than those that would be against it — would like to see something like that happen,” he said. “It’s national security.”

Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., who has historically been more open to immigration legislation than other members of her conference, also signaled willingness to investigate Mayorkas.

“I haven’t been privy or been included in any of those negotiations or conversations, but what we need is better service at the border,” she said. “I need to review the evidence, but he’s done a very bad job.”

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