Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., right, and Rep. Dale Strong, R-Ala., conduct a June 14, 2023, news conference ahead of the House Homeland Security Committee hearing to "Examine Secretary Mayorkas' Dereliction of Duty."

Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., right, and Rep. Dale Strong, R-Ala., conduct a June 14, 2023, news conference ahead of the House Homeland Security Committee hearing to "Examine Secretary Mayorkas' Dereliction of Duty." Tom Williams / Getty Images

House panel approves DHS secretary’s impeachment as Senate nears deal to surge his staffing

Republicans get one step close to taking the second-ever such vote.

A House committee early Wednesday advanced its impeachment of the Homeland Security Department secretary, moving forward after a marathon markup with the rarely taken step for a cabinet official despite concerns Republicans have not laid out any crimes he has committed. 

The party-line vote came as the Biden administration is continuing its grueling and formidable negotiations with Senate Republicans over a plan to institute tighter crackdowns at the border, an issue at the heart of the impeachment articles aimed at DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. House Republicans, however, have balked at those talks—which negotiators have suggested is nearing a legislative proposal—and Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has suggested any bill may be dead on arrival in his chamber. 

The deal is expected to include immigration policy changes that would make asylum more difficult to achieve, empower the president to invoke a border shutdown that would enable border personnel to quickly turn around virtually any migrant arrival and provide significantly more resources to DHS, among other reforms.

Biden has requested $14 billion in supplemental funding to, in part, surge 6,000 new hires to immigration-related agencies. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who is leading the negotiations for Republicans, said the forthcoming deal is going to include funding to meet at least some of that ask. 

“It increases the number of Border Patrol agents, it increases asylum officers,” Lankford told Fox News, adding it would also increase the number of detention beds and deportation flights. 

The House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday approved two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas: the first accuses the secretary of failing to carry out a bevy of federal statutes related to immigration. DHS and congressional Democrats have repeatedly noted that no department secretary has met those standards, such as detaining every migrant who crosses into the country. The second article concerns allegations Mayorkas violated his oath of office, lied to Congress and obstructed the committee’s investigation. 

Mayorkas on Tuesday morning submitted a letter in his defense, saying he has “adhered scrupulously and fervently” to his oath of office throughout his decades in public service. The committee requested Mayorkas testify before the committee and the secretary agreed to do so, but said he was meeting with Mexican government officials on the day committee Republicans had proposed. The panel continued with its scheduled timeline and Mayorkas submitted his letter just hours before the impeachment markup was set to begin, which committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., said was too late and inadequate. 

Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration have blasted the effort as vindictive, politically motivated and setting a dangerous precedent. They have accused Republicans of failing to spell out any specific “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are required for impeachment under the Constitution and said their colleagues simply disagreed with President Biden’s approach to immigration and border security policy.

In a memorandum following the release of the impeachment articles, DHS said under Mayorkas' leadership it has ramped up migrant removals to levels not seen since 2015 and detained every migrant possible using the number of detention beds Congress has funded.

Applying the committee Republicans' logic consistently, it added, would have required the impeachment of every DHS secretary since the department's formation. DHS has provided 20,000 pages of documents to the current Congress, it said, including 13,000 to the Homeland Security panel. 

Green said at the outset of the markup the lawmakers took the step not because they wanted to, but because Mayorkas’ actions forced their hand. He added that he and his colleagues have been investigating Mayorkas for months and impeachment was the only means to hold the secretary accountable. 

Mayorkas’ impeachment would mark an exceedingly rare step. Wiliam Belknap, secretary of war under President Grant, is the only cabinet secretary to be impeached after the House did so in 1876. He resigned before facing trial in the Senate. Even if the latest effort proves successful, there is little path for Republicans to find the two-thirds majority required for conviction in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the top Democrat on the committee, said history would not judge Republicans’ actions favorably. 

“This impeachment scheme is a dangerous attempt by House Republicans to distort the Constitution and the secretary of record to cover up their inability and unwillingness to work with Democrats for the betterment of our constituents,” Thompson said. 

Democrats throughout the hearing, which lasted throughout the day and into the evening on Tuesday after the committee considered various amendments and worked through a slew of delay tactics by the minority party, called Republicans hypocritical for seeming to reject the forthcoming border deal while impeaching Mayorkas for not adequately dealing with the border. 

“House Republicans are playing politics instead of working together to find real solutions,” said Rep. Seth Magaziner, D-R.I. “If we were working together to find solutions for the border, we could be voting today on President Biden's request for more funding for the border, his request which would add 1,300 Border Patrol officers and 1,600 [asylum] officers. We could be working with the Senate to develop policies to address our immigration challenges, but instead we are wasting our time on impeachment because securing the border is not a priority for House Republicans.” 

Customs and Border Protection would add 1,000 new officers under Biden's plan, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement would add 1,470 attorneys. The latter hiring would accompany 375 immigration judges within Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review—the agency that runs the nation’s immigration courts—and support staff for each of them.

Biden reiterated his support for that staffing surge on Friday, though Lankford did not spell out the details of the personnel provisions with his yet-to-be-introduced bill. Mayorkas, despite the articles pending against him, has played a key role in those talks. Republicans are now expected to tee up a vote on his impeachment before the full House as soon as next week.