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Split-screen of Mayorkas impeachment, border bill frustrates Senate GOP

Frustration is mounting for Senate Republicans over the House GOP’s dual push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas while trying to kill the bipartisan border bill, a split-screen they believe is colored by presidential election politics.

Senators are hopeful the bipartisan border deal will be released this week after months of negotiations, but the chances it could pass have taken a major hit in recent days. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has repeatedly indicated the bill may die a quick death in the House if it passes the Senate.

In the meantime, House Republicans are motoring toward impeaching Mayorkas after the House Homeland Security Committee met all day Tuesday on the articles of impeachment. Rank-and-file House GOP members have set their sights on impeaching him for months even though it will almost certainly not result in a Senate conviction.

“In many respects, there’s a parallel. If they’re torpedoing a bill whose contents they haven’t seen yet, it’s very similar to targeting a member of the administration without doing their homework to find precisely why he should be impeached. I don’t agree with it, but at least they’re consistent,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) quipped.

“They’re taking a fast track to condemning something they know nothing about, and they’re taking a fast track to using impeachment without doing their homework,” he continued. “People are cutting corners and not doing their homework.”

A House vote to impeach Mayorkas could take place as early as next week — right when the Senate might be voting on the border package as part of President Biden’s emergency supplemental. On top of the border item, it would also include aid for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific and for humanitarian purposes.

Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) have kept details of the package close to the vest throughout the months of talks. The bill is widely expected to include restrictions on asylum claims and on the ability of migrants to be granted parole, an issue that bedeviled the group throughout the process.

Johnson said Tuesday the idea he was dismissing the border bill to help former President Trump’s chances in November was “absurd.”

Nevertheless, Johnson’s repeated remarks in recent days have upset some in the Senate GOP after he agreed with tying the potential border package to Ukraine aid last year. 

“It’s frustrating when one side of the Capitol is all-or-nothing, and the other side wants a solution, even if it’s not perfect. We want to move the ball down the field,” one Senate GOP aide said. “It’s just so f‑‑‑ing frustrating.” 

While Senate Republicans are upset by Mayorkas’s handling of the border, a number of them are skeptical that an impeachment is a remedy to the problem — or that there’s a smoking gun that should trigger this type of action. Some have echoed comments Lankford made earlier this month arguing that Mayorkas is simply carrying out the Biden administration’s agenda, and that if the secretary is replaced, the policy won’t change, absent legislative action. 

“You can swap secretaries, the policies are going to be exactly the same on it. President Trump had four different leaders, but he had the same policy,” Lankford, who has worked with Mayorkas on the Senate border deal, said.

The two impeachment articles accuse Mayorkas of refusing to comply with immigration laws passed by Congress and of obstructing and misleading congressional oversight. 

A successful Mayorkas impeachment would also cause tumult in the upper chamber, as it would tie up the floor at a critical time, potentially while funding for four government departments is set to expire March 2.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, noted that Trump’s second impeachment trial lasted five days and that he hopes the chamber can limit a Mayorkas trial to a “brief period of time.” He declined to say whether he believes the Senate is required to hold a trial. 

Two-thirds of the Senate would be needed to convict Mayorkas. If the House is successful, it would mark the first time a Cabinet member has been impeached since 1876, leading some senators to worry that this could open Pandora’s box and lead to more frequent impeachments of Cabinet secretaries.

“It’s a path when you start down that — I think you have to think long and hard about that, because it’s been a long time since it’s been triggered for somebody at the Cabinet level,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. 

Thune declined to delve into whether Mayorkas has met the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors, but said he’d prefer to go about change by winning the November election. Others were more blunt about their lack of desire for this impeachment effort to succeed.

“I still don’t think we should be impeaching somebody every two or three months,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said. “I stand by that.” 

The impeachment push also comes on the heels of Mayorkas being actively involved in the Senate border negotiations. Lankford repeatedly downplayed his role in the discussions and told reporters that he wasn’t having an effect on policies being negotiated, adding that Mayorkas was helpful with the “technical” side of the deal. 

But for now, no deal is final. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor Tuesday that the bill is “approaching the finish line.” 

Democrats are also panning the House GOP’s twin plan on Mayorkas and the Senate bill, with Durbin labeling it an “embarrassment.”

“It’s a waste of time,” Durbin said. “If they disagree with the policy that he was supporting and implementing, grab a mirror and take a look. It’s policy that we put into law, and we should be changing.”

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