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Republicans tear into Mayorkas as impeachment efforts build

Members of the House Judiciary Committee criticized the Homeland Security chief on migration during an oversight hearing

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans accused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday of mismanaging the U.S.-Mexico border and misrepresenting migration levels, but generally stopped short of explicitly calling for his impeachment.

The Republican attacks came during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. House Republicans have been building a potential impeachment case against Mayorkas, who they blame for high numbers of migrants traveling to the southwest border.

Several House Republicans — including members of the Judiciary Committee — have filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas that allege he has been “derelict” in his duties to secure the border.

While referencing that language, most Republican lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing avoided specifically calling for the secretary’s impeachment.

Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck told Mayorkas his constituents see him as a “traitor” and blamed the Homeland Security chief for fentanyl poisoning deaths.

“Mr. Secretary, it is your responsibility to secure our border against fentanyl trafficking. The fentanyl killing thousands of Americans every year is a direct result of your dereliction,” Buck said. “When people die of fentanyl poisoning, it is your fault.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who has filed one of the impeachment resolutions against Mayorkas, grilled him about whether he or President Joe Biden was responsible for guidance instructing immigration agents to prioritize arresting immigrants who threaten public safety and national security. After Mayorkas would not answer directly, Biggs muttered, “disgusting.”

Rep. Tom Tiffany also accused Mayorkas of lying about control over drug trafficking at the border. The Wisconsin Republican pointed to testimony at an earlier congressional hearing from Arizona Sheriff Mark Dannels that fentanyl trafficking has increased, which Mayorkas said he disagreed with.

“Someone’s not telling the truth. It’s either Dannels, or it’s you,” Tiffany said.

Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana said Mayorkas is “the most dishonest person who has ever appeared before the Judiciary.”

Rep. Ben Cline came close to threatening impeachment without using the term.

“You should be ashamed. More so, you should be held accountable. This committee will do just that, and I am committed to making that happen as well,” the Virginia Republican said.

Only New Jersey Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew specifically called for the secretary to be impeached. He urged Mayorkas to resign, and said “If you will not resign, that leaves us with no other option. You should be impeached.”

In response to Republican jabs, Mayorkas repeatedly disputed characterizations that the border is “open” and maintained that fentanyl trafficking and other challenges at the border predate the Biden administration.

Mayorkas told the committee that “the safety and the security of the American people is our highest priority,” and DHS and federal partners “are taking it to the traffickers to an unprecedented degree through innovative operations targeting criminals.”

‘Political theater’

Committee Democrats criticized Republicans’ efforts to build an impeachment case and instead praised Mayorkas for his experience and leadership. House Republicans have also expressed interest in impeaching FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Biden.

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the committee, said Republican leaders agreed to pursue the impeachment of Mayorkas to gain support from the right wing of the caucus for the party’s debt limit package.

“Today’s hearing will not be about legitimate congressional oversight. Instead, the chairman and his colleagues in the majority will use today’s hearing as a predicate for a completely baseless attempt to impeach Mayorkas,” Nadler said. “It will be one more exercise in political theater for the right-wing outrage machine before the August break.”

California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu cited data showing that unauthorized border crossings last month were lower than they were in May 2023. “And now Republicans want to impeach you? Good luck with that,” Lieu said.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said most of her Republican colleagues “are only interested in performance.”

“While this is an oversight hearing, we know that the spectacle you’re seeing on the other side is part of Republicans’ ultimate distraction strategy: impeachment,” she said. “I’m surprised that they aren’t trying to impeach the pope.”

A DHS spokesperson said Wednesday that while House Republicans have “wasted months trying to score points with baseless attacks, Secretary Mayorkas has been doing his job and working to keep Americans safe.”

Impeachment case

The hearing comes a week after House Homeland Security Committee Republicans released a 112-page report into Mayorkas’ “dereliction of duty,” part of what committee Chairman Mark E. Green of Tennessee has described as a “five-phase deep dive” into the causes of the high migration levels.

The July 19 report argued Mayorkas has failed to secure the border by winding down Trump-era migration restrictions and implemented new policies that allegedly encouraged more migration.

“It is, therefore, the solemn conclusion of this Committee that Mayorkas has been derelict in his duty, and that this dereliction has been intentional,” the report states.

Green has said his committee plans to turn its findings over to the Judiciary Committee, which would be responsible for formally launching impeachment proceedings. He estimated the investigation would take 11 to 12 weeks.

Still, House Republicans face an uphill battle to secure enough votes within their own caucus to vote to impeach the secretary. Asked about support for impeachment last month, Green told reporters that “we haven’t even gotten to that word.”

A Cabinet secretary has been impeached only once in American history. William Belknap, who served as war secretary during the administration of President Ulysses Grant, was impeached in 1876 for bribery-related offenses.

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