U.S. House committee recommends impeachment of Homeland Security chief over border situation

Four Texas lawmakers sit on that committee. The decision will now go to the House floor.

By Sarah AschFebruary 1, 2024 12:10 pm, ,

Texas Congressional Republicans in Washington, D.C. helped move the chamber one step closer to a possibly historic decision.

The House will soon consider impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for what the GOP has described as a mishandling of the southern border and a dereliction of duties.

The House Homeland Security Committee voted 18-15 along party lines to impeach the secretary. Four Texas Republicans sit on the committee: Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10), Rep. August Pfluger (TX-11), Rep. Tony Gonzalez (TX-23) and Rep. Morgan Luttrell (TX-08).

Todd Gillman, the D.C. bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, said the impeachment of a cabinet official has only happened once in U.S. history.

“William Belknap was the secretary of war under Ulysses S Grant. He unequivocally had been taking kickbacks from government military contractors. He was guilty of bribery,” Gillman said. “He actually resigned. And then Congress impeached him anyway.

And, for anyone who actually remembers what the impeachment clause says, it’s high crimes, misdemeanors, treason, bribery. So bribery was well within the ambit of the impeachment clause. And that is the last time that a cabinet member has been impeached.”

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Gillman said the next step is for the recommendation of Mayorkas’ impeachment to go from the committee to the House floor.

“We don’t have a specific schedule for when there would be debate and an eventual vote on the impeachment articles on the House floor,” he said. “The Republicans obviously have a razor thin majority in the House, and it’s possible that not all of them would go along. It’s a very good bet that none of the Democrats would go along. So it is, in fact, possible that the House would be unable to get the majority votes needed to impeach him and send it over to the Senate for a trial. That’s what happens next.”

Gillman described Mayorkas as “a political punching bag and a scapegoat” in the GOP’s dissatisfaction over the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“Many Republicans have been clamoring for his impeachment even before Republicans took over control of the House just about a year ago,” Gillman said. “And that was long before the situation really, really bottomed out in the last few months.

In December, you’ll recall, Border Patrol tallied about 250,000 arrests along the border. That’s an all-time high for a month. And what Republicans are saying is that Mayorkas has been derelict in his duty. He has not managed to secure the border. He has failed to implement laws.”

One law officials are calling on Mayorkas to enforce is the law that requires all migrants to be detained if they come into the country. 

“Administrations long before the Biden administration and long before Mayorkas was secretary of homeland security have released migrants into the country, pending their asylum hearings because Congress has never, ever, ever, provided enough detention space,” Gillman said.

“There’s just literally a contradiction in the laws that say everybody has to be detained, but we can’t possibly detain everybody. So what the Homeland Security Department has always done is prioritize the most dangerous migrants to be detained and have set everybody else free to go about their lives for a while until it’s time for their detention hearings.”

Gillman also said conservative legal scholars like Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley, who defended Donald Trump against impeachment, have called on impeachment not to be used as a political tool. 

“Dershowitz wrote an op-ed the other day that said the extraordinary power of impeachment should be reserved for constitutionally impeachable offenses and not invoked just because one party has the votes to do so,” Gillman said. “And that’s kind of the argument, is that Republicans obviously don’t like what’s going on at the border, and they are pinning it on Mayorkas and trying to use this mechanism of impeachment to beat up on the Biden administration.”

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