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Senate kills both impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

By Riley Beggin April 17, 2024


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WASHINGTON – The Senate voted to deem both articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas unconstitutional, killing the charges against the top Biden administration official despite protests from Republican lawmakers.

The Senate rejected the article accusing Mayorkas of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" on a 51-48 vote. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted "present," splitting from her fellow Republicans. The Senate dropped the second charge that Mayorkas oversaw a "breach of public trust" in a 51-49 vote.

The White House immediately applauded the move. Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations called the proceedings a "baseless impeachment that even conservative legal scholars said was unconstitutional."

Before the Senate rejected the charges against Mayorkas, Republicans attempted to draw out the votes by setting up multiple procedural hurdles, such as calling to adjourn until the end of the month or, in one case, until after the 2024 presidential election. But each of those were overruled by the narrow Democratic majority, and the upper chamber adjourned the proceedings after just a few hours.

But as the chamber met to consider the House's impeachment of Mayorkas, Republicans and Democrats agreed on one thing – it was a historic moment.

Democrats panned the Republican House's effort as a remarkable misuse of impeachment powers that could have undermined America's system of checks and balances.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier in the day that his chamber was meeting to consider an impeachment for the third time in four years – the first two being impeachments of former President Donald Trump.

But "this time, Senators will preside as jurors in the least legitimate, least substantive, and most politicized impeachment trial in the history of the United States," Schumer said.

"The charges brought against Secretary Mayorkas fail to meet the high standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future," Schumer said.

The constitution sets "high crimes and misdemeanors" as the general bar for impeaching an official. Senate Democrats, who control the chamber by just one seat, voted that the articles didn't meet that bar.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans argued that Democrats were making a major mistake by pushing to dismiss the trial before it even began. Their GOP colleagues in the House charged Mayorkas with betraying the public trust and violating the Constitution by "willfully and systemically" refusing to enforce border security laws.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued it was the Senate's duty to at least consider the House's charges. After the upper chamber voted, the top Republican said that "today is not a proud day in the history of the Senate."

"By doing what we just did, we have in effect ignored the directions of the House which were to have a trial. No evidence, no procedure," he added.

However, all but five Republicans – including McConnell – voted to dismiss the impeachment trial against Trump in 2021 after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building. GOP lawmakers didn't have the votes at the time to nix the charges against the then-president.

Republicans argued this week that Democrats set a new precedent that would allow future senators to dismiss impeachments without a trial, one that could come back to haunt them. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who leads an ultraconservative faction of the Senate GOP, argued on the floor following the vote: "What we just witnessed is truly historic."

Schumer, speaking to reporters after the vote, said it would have set an even more dangerous precedent to allow an impeachment over policy disagreements. "If we allowed that to happen, it would set a disastrous precedent for Congress. It could throw our system of checks and balances into cycles of chaos."

The Republican-led House voted to impeach Mayorkas in February by a count of 214-213, making him the second cabinet secretary in American history to be impeached (the first was nearly 150 years ago.) No Democrats supported the effort, and a few Republicans also voted against it.

Even if Democrats changed their minds and agreed to a trial in the Senate, it was always extremely unlikely that Mayorkas would be convicted. It would require support from two-thirds of senators, and all Democrats and several Republicans argued the charges were frivolous.

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