US House to vote again on impeaching Biden’s homeland security secretary

The US House of Representatives could vote on Tuesday on whether to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, Joe Biden’s secretary of homeland security, on explicitly political charges related to deteriorating conditions at the southern border and Republican attempts to capitalise on the issue in an election year.

Tuesday’s vote has been threatened by winter weather conditions, forcing Republicans to first hold a lower-stakes vote on a different issue to find out if they have enough members present to impeach Mayorkas. The impeachment vote would follow an embarrassing failure for the House speaker, Mike Johnson, last week, when Republican absences and defections contributed to defeat in a first vote.

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If Republicans are successful, the effort to remove Mayorkas – for allegedly refusing to enforce immigration law – would move to the Senate, where it has next to no chance of producing a conviction.

Last weekend, Mayorkas told NBC that Republicans’ allegations against him were “baseless … and that’s why I’m really not distracted by them.

“I’m focused on the work of the Department of Homeland Security. I’m inspired every single day by the remarkable work that 216,000 men and women in our department perform on behalf of the American public.”

Mayorkas is not the only Biden administration official the House Republicans want to impeach. Republicans filed legislation to impeach a long list including Kamala Harris, the vice-president; Merrick Garland, the attorney general; Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, and Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary.

Never before has a sitting cabinet secretary been impeached, and it was nearly 150 years ago that the House voted to impeach then president Ulysses S Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap, over a kickback scheme in government contracts. He resigned before the vote.

Mayorkas, who did not appear to testify before the impeachment proceedings, put the border crisis squarely on Congress for failing to update immigration laws during a time of global migration.

Conditions at the border with Mexico, where numbers of undocumented migrants remain high, “certainly” represented “a crisis”, Mayorkas said.

But he said the Biden administration did not “bear responsibility for a broken system. And we’re doing a tremendous amount within that broken system. But fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix it.”

Last week, Republicans in the Senate abandoned and sank an immigration and border deal, reached after extensive negotiations with Democrats, after Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, made his opposition clear.

After the failure of the first Mayorkas impeachment vote, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a Republican who voted no and was subjected to intense pressure to change his mind, said he would not seek re-election in November.

Gallagher, until now a rising star in the party, said: “The proponents of impeachment [of Mayorkas] failed to make the argument as to how his stunning incompetence meets the impeachment threshold.”

Such a purely political impeachment, he added, would “set a dangerous new precedent that will be weaponized against future Republican administrations”.

Another Republican who opposed the first vote, Tom McClintock of California, said his party was seeking to “stretch and distort the constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law”.

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