WASHINGTON — Republicans hope the second time will be a charm.
Exactly a week after failing to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border, House Republicans will try again Tuesday to send articles of impeachment across the Capitol to the Democratic-led Senate.
They have zero room for error. Last week, a trio of skeptical Republicans — Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin — teamed up with all Democrats to force a 215-215 tie, tanking the impeachment vote and delivering an embarrassing blow to Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his leadership team.
As he faced blowback from his party, Gallagher said over the weekend that he will not seek re-election this fall.
With Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., returning to Washington this week after receiving treatment for blood cancer, Republicans hope to be back at full strength and have the votes to impeach Mayorkas this time around. But with the margins so tight, unexpected absences could be a factor, especially with a major snowstorm bearing down on the Northeast making travel to Washington difficult.
The GOP also wants to regroup and push forward now because of the potential impact of Tuesday’s special election to replace George Santos, the expelled New York Republican congressman.
If the Democratic nominee, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, defeats Republican Mazi Pilip and can be sworn in quickly, it means that Republicans can lose only two GOP lawmakers on any vote and that the Mayorkas impeachment would likely be dead.
Campaigning Monday on Long Island for Pilip, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., confidently predicted the votes were there for impeachment.
“Yes, we will pass the impeachment of Mayorkas,” Stefanik told NBC News.
If Tuesday’s vote is successful, Mayorkas would become just the second Cabinet secretary in U.S. history to be impeached — and the first in nearly 150 years.
The vote comes in the wake of the collapse of a rare bipartisan Senate deal that would have imposed tougher asylum and border policies. But former President Donald Trump and Johnson expressed vocal opposition to the agreement, saying that it didn’t go far enough to stop illegal immigration, and Senate GOP leaders who had been involved in the talks abandoned it soon after, punting any potential border legislation until well after the November election.
During an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,“ Mayorkas dismissed the impeachment articles as “baseless allegations” and rejected the idea that he bears responsibility for the overwhelming number of migrants illegally crossing the southern border.
“It certainly is a crisis, and we don’t bear responsibility for a broken system, and we’re doing a tremendous amount within that broken system,” he said. “But fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix it.”
The GOP’s impeachment resolution, originally authored by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, cleared the House Homeland Security Committee late last month and spells out two articles.
The first accuses Mayorkas of “willfully and systemically” refusing to comply with federal immigration laws. Because of that, it says, “millions of aliens have illegally entered the United States on an annual basis with many unlawfully remaining in the United States.”
The second article says that Mayorkas “breached the public trust” by making false statements to Congress and knowingly obstructing congressional oversight of the Homeland Security Department.
But Mayorkas allies also have highlighted remarks from key conservative figures blasting the GOP’s impeachment effort.
Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar who served as a GOP witness in Trump’s first impeachment, said there is “no current evidence” that Mayorkas “is corrupt or committed an impeachable offense,” arguing that “the case has not been made to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas.”
And Alan Dershowitz, who was Trump’s defense attorney during his first impeachment, declared that Mayorkas “has not committed bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors” and that Republicans are impeaching “based on partisan considerations.”
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Don’t Impeach Alejandro Mayorkas”: “As homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush — and as a former federal judge, U.S. attorney and assistant attorney general — I can say with confidence that, for all the investigating that the House Committee on Homeland Security has done, they have failed to put forth evidence that meets the bar.”
While all but a few House Republicans have united behind the impeachment push, several GOP senators have poured cold water on the effort, with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a Trump ally, calling it “obviously dead on arrival” and “the worst, dumbest exercise and use of time.”
It’s almost certain that Mayorkas would be acquitted by the Senate given that two-thirds, or 67 senators, would be needed to convict and remove the secretary, whose Democratic Party controls the Senate.
Once the House impeachment managers transmit the articles to the Senate, the upper chamber then would be required to conduct an impeachment trial. It’s expected that the articles would either be quickly dismissed, or the trial will be sent to a special committee which would hear the evidence from the impeachment managers and report it to the full Senate.
The Senate is out of session and will return on Feb. 26.