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Senate dispenses with Mayorkas impeachment without a trial

Democrats play procedural hardball to end Republican push to oust Homeland Security secretary

Visitors in the Hart Senate Office Building go about their business as floor action Wednesday on the impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas airs on television in the background.
Visitors in the Hart Senate Office Building go about their business as floor action Wednesday on the impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas airs on television in the background. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted Wednesday to dispense with impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas without a trial, in a show of procedural hardball from the Democratic caucus.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who had said his party would quickly dispense of the impeachment, made two procedural points of order that the articles did not meet the constitutional standard for impeachment.

The Democratic caucus stuck together to back those, in 51-48-1 and 51-49 votes, which meant that the articles fell. Republicans made procedural motions to halt that fate, but the Democratic caucus rejected them.

About three hours after the senators were sworn in as impeachment jurors, the chamber had wiped out the articles and ended its time as the impeachment court.

The procedural drama on the floor started right away. Schumer offered Republicans a time agreement that would have allowed more than three hours of debate along with votes on several resolutions.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., objected and blocked that plan, and he accused Democrats of “setting the Constitution ablaze” by voting to dispense with the articles without a trial.

That’s when Schumer made his first point of order. After a brief pause, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made a motion to take the Senate into closed session.

Schumer was no longer interested. “In our previous consent request, we gave your side a chance for debate in public, where it should be, and your side objected. We are moving forward,” Schumer said.

The two impeachment articles, accusing Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust,” were adopted by the House in February by a 214-213 vote, the first time a sitting Cabinet secretary was impeached in more than a century.

Mayorkas’ tenure as Homeland Security secretary has made him a lightning rod for criticism amid the broader disputes between the Biden administration and Republicans over immigration and border policy.

Senate Republicans claimed Wednesday’s votes to avoid a trial damaged the institution as Democrats sought to ignore damage done by the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, one of the major advocates for the chamber to hold a trial, made a motion on the floor and pointed out that the second of the two articles included an allegation that Mayorkas lied to Congress, a felony.

“If this is not impeachable, then what is?” Lee said.

Lee and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., have threatened that Republicans may withhold the unanimous consent usually required for the Senate floor to function in response to the votes.

After the votes, Schmitt told reporters the process “bulldozes 200 years of precedent and lights fire to our constitutional order,” echoing other Republican criticism of the vote.

In a floor speech Wednesday, Schumer called the Mayorkas impeachment the “least legitimate, least substantive and most politicized impeachment trial ever,” which was meant to boost former President Donald Trump’s reelection chances.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy and other Democrats said the impeachment articles offered by Republicans were meritless and meant as a political ploy.

“This is merely an attempt to politically damage the president. Everybody knows it. And it would be irresponsible for us to treat it as a serious exercise of the Impeachment Clause of the Constitution,” Murphy told reporters after the votes.

Murphy also said he felt like Republican complaints about the process or the precedent set by Democrats were overblown.

“It’s the Senate. A precedent lasts until it’s overturned,” Murphy said. “Ultimately, votes control in the Senate.”

Biden administration spokesman Ian Sams praised the Senate vote to dispense with the impeachment in a statement Wednesday.

“President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas will continue doing their jobs to keep America safe and pursue actual solutions at the border, and Congressional Republicans should join them, instead of wasting time on baseless political stunts while killing real bipartisan border security reforms,” the statement said.

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