Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Border Patrol agents in Texas ahead of his announcement on Tuesday.

Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Border Patrol agents in Texas ahead of his announcement on Tuesday. Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Republicans Suggest Impeachment Proceedings Coming for Biden Cabinet Member

White House calls the announcement a "political stunt."

House Republicans on Tuesday proposed an ultimatum for Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: resign, or face investigations that could lead to his impeachment.  

The notice from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the current House minority leader and the leading candidate to be the next speaker, charts a course for a contentious relationship between the White House and the Republican-controlled lower chamber in the 118th Congress. McCarthy, who met with Border Patrol agents in Texas ahead of his announcement on Tuesday, cited the record number of encounters of migrants illegally crossing the southern border and increases in attempts to smuggle drugs like fentanyl into the United States as justification for the potential proceedings. 

Mayorkas “continues to lie to the American public” by suggesting the border is secure, McCarthy said at a press conference near the border in El Paso. 

“Those responsible for this disaster will be held accountable,” the Republican leader said, adding Mayorkas “cannot and must not remain in that position.” He promised if Mayorkas does not resign, the new House majority will investigate every order and policy the secretary has issued and Republicans will then “determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry.” 

Mayorkas, who has extensive federal experience in the Justice Department early in his career and in multiple roles at DHS during the Obama administration, is unlikely to actually face removal from his job. Republicans will hold a narrow majority next year and keep the entire caucus united behind an effort to embarrass the Biden administration will likely prove a difficult challenge. Even if the chamber succeeds in its efforts, there is little path for Republicans to find the two-thirds majority required for conviction in the Democratic-controlled Senate. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifying during a Senate hearing on Nov. 17, 2022. TOM WILLIAMS/GETTY IMAGES

Still, McCarthy said he will move forward as he suggested Mayorkas’ leadership of DHS amounted to a “dereliction of duty.” Republicans have bashed President Biden’s border policies since the very beginning of his term and vowed through the midterm campaigns to use whatever power they gained to seek changes. Large increases in illegal crossings at the border began during the Trump administration and continued to accelerate after Biden took office. 

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. 

DHS encountered 2.4 million migrants in fiscal 2022, an all-time record inflated by a temporary policy that turned away many of those individuals and allowed them to quickly make repeated trips across the border. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 20,000 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal 2022, marking a near doubling of the total from the previous year and a 10-fold increase since fiscal 2019. 

Former CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus resigned from his post earlier this month after the White House asked him to step down, though Republicans have called for more DHS heads to roll. Dozens of House Republicans have already supported a resolution to impeach Mayorkas and vowed to ramp up those efforts once their party takes control of the chamber next year. The secretary told lawmakers at a hearing last week DHS is taking significant steps to reduce the number of migrants arriving at the border, such as through new policies for legal immigration for Venezuelan immigrants and an interagency initiative to crack down on human smugglers. He also called on Congress to meet the Border Patrol’s budget request to fund 300 new agents and to reform the asylum process.

The Biden administration has primarily focused on the need to reform the immigration system, the humane processing of migrant arrivals and push factors in Central and South American countries, while Republicans have stressed the need to first address border security issues. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said ahead of McCarthy’s announcement that he was simply pulling a “political stunt.”

“What is his plan?” Jean-Pierre said. “What is he doing to help this situation that we’re seeing? What is his plan? He goes down there and does a political stunt, like many Republicans do.”  

Several conservative House Republicans have said they will not vote to make McCarthy speaker, putting his selection to the post at risk. Tuesday’s announcement could serve as an effort to shore up his right flank ahead of that vote. 

House Republicans had already ratcheted up their probes of the Biden administration’s border security policies. On Monday, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the current ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee who is set to become the top Republican investigating the Biden administration when he takes over as chairman next year, sent a letter to Mayorkas renewing requests for internal communications from the Biden administration regardings its decision making on border and drug smuggling enforcement policies. He suggested that while Mayorkas has failed to provide all the information he previously requested, it will be harder for him to do so once Republicans control the committee. 

“Oversight Republicans will be relentless in our pursuit to hold Biden Administration officials accountable for this ongoing humanitarian, national security, and public health crisis,” Comer said. “The Biden administration must cooperate with congressional oversight in order to provide the American people with transparency and accountability.”