For the first time since 1876, a member of a president’s cabinet risks being removed from office for failing to enforce the laws as written by Congress.
Whether Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas becomes only the second presidential cabinet member to be impeached by the House of Representatives in American history will likely be decided Tuesday when the issue is brought to the floor of the lower chamber for a vote.
Secretary of War George Belknap was impeached by the House in 1876, but the Senate refused to convict him. Even so, Belknap resigned from his position.
The rapid move of the two Mayorkas articles of impeachment adopted Jan. 30 by the House Committee on Homeland Security from that panel to the full House for a final vote was expedited by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) and by the House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
Meeting late into the evening Monday, the rules panel approved a “closed” rule providing for the articles to be considered without amendments being offered from the floor. The rule was adopted on an 8-4 party-line vote, with all of the Republicans supporting it and all of the Democrats opposing it.
Before the vote to adopt the closed rule, the committee also rejected an amendment on another party-line vote that would have required public airing of background information on all of the homeland security panel’s sources in its impeachment deliberations.
Republicans opposed the amendment, while Democrats supported it.
That amendment and two others offered by Democratic members of the panel had also been offered and rejected on party-line votes during the Jan. 30 proceedings.
There was little doubt on the rules panel, which includes nine Republicans and four Democrats, that all three of the Democratic amendments would be rejected.
Democrats also demanded roll call votes on all three of the amendments. One Republican, Rep. Nick Langeworthy of New York, was not present.
The vote on the rule concluded a hearing in which Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and other Democratic members of the Rules panel repeatedly claimed Republicans were impeaching Mr. Mayorkas as a “political stunt” in order to satisfy former President Donald Trump’s demands and without evidence of the secretary having committed any actions that satisfy the “high crimes and misdemeanors” provision of the Constitution.
Mr. Cole opened the hearing by reminding members of the panel “what this crisis at the border means. It means countless young Americans’ futures stolen by the poison of fentanyl, it means terrified young children abandoned by smugglers in the dark, it means criminals, traffickers and cartels becoming enriched, it means bad actors on our terrorist watch lists looking to exploit gaps to get into the country, it means support systems are overwhelmed in communities from coast to coast, it means school children losing access to their schools to house migrants, it means an over-stressed Border Patrol that is unable to successfully carry out its mission, it means a public health crisis and the tragic deaths of countless people as they enter our country drawn by the knowledge that the border is open and the United States government will not stop them.”
Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), who is chairman of the homeland security committee, said Republicans on that panel vote unanimously for the two impeachment articles largely on the basis of the fact that Mr. Mayorkas, on at least seven occasions during his tenure, willfully and purposely refused to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress and signed by prior presidents. Doing so represented a violation of his oath of office in which he and all other federal officeholders promised to “faithfully execute the laws.”
In response to a question from Rep. Erin Houchin (R-Ind.), Mr. Green said “I believe his oath to the Constitution is violated by his refusal to recognize the separation of powers in the Constitution, that we write the laws, they execute them, and he has failed, and actually intentionally subverted some of those laws.”
In his opening remarks, Mr. McGovern condemned the impeachment articles as “the most frivolous impeachment effort this House has ever seen, period, end of story. Truly, this is one of the most pathetic and embarrassing things this committee has ever done.
“Democrats have been ready and willing to work in a bipartisan way to secure the border. We have said over and over that there is a problem at the border, let’s work together for the good of the country, let’s fix it. And what have House Republicans done? They have consistently played politics with our national security, they refuse to take action on the border because they are taking their marching orders from Trump.
“They hold press conferences, they go on the House floor and scream and yell, they rant and rave about immigration and border security, but when it comes time for action, when it comes time to work with Democrats and the president to get something done, they refuse.”
But the proposal went nowhere in either chamber after being introduced. No committee hearings were held in the Senate or the House, which resulted in Mr. McGovern’s rules panel never having the opportunity to adopt a rule on how the proposal would be debated on the House floor.