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Mayorkas impeachment sparks partisan Senate battle

The House impeachment managers on Tuesday formally delivered two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, setting up a battle on the Senate floor over whether to hold a full trial in the upper chamber.

It marks the first time since 1876 that the House has sent impeachment charges against a Cabinet official to the Senate, according to the Senate historical office.

Senators received the House managers shortly after 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday while seated at their desks, a rare formality adopted in the upper chamber only for the most serious occasions.

Nearly every seat in the Senate chamber was filled when the 11 House managers walked down the center aisle to read the charges from the well.

Adding to the gravity of the moment, the Senate sergeant at arms commanded “all persons” to “keep silent, on pain of imprisonment” while the House prosecutors read the charges and exhibited the impeachment articles.

Senators will be sworn in as jurors at 1 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether to hold a full trial on the Senate floor, something Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has signaled he has no intention of doing.

Schumer warned that holding a trial would set an “awful precedent.”

“We want to address this issue as expeditiously as possible. Impeachment should never be used to settle a policy disagreement,” he said on the floor.

“This would set an awful precedent for Congress. Every time there’s a policy [disagreement] in the House, they send it over here and tie the Senate in knots to do an impeachment trial? That’s absurd. That’s an abuse of the process. That is more chaos,” he said.

Schumer has said Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will preside over the impeachment proceedings but has declined to say what exactly the Senate will do next.

Senate Republicans say they expect Schumer to offer a motion to dismiss the charges Wednesday afternoon or evening, which would need a simple majority to pass.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said tabling the charges before hearing arguments and evidence would defy history and precedent.

“I intend to give these charges my full and undivided attention,” he said. “Of course, that would require that senators actually get the opportunity to hold a trial. And that is exactly what history and precedent dictate.”

“Never before has the Senate agreed to a motion to table articles of impeachment. Not for an officer of either party. Not once,” he said.

He noted that every other time in history the House has sent impeachment articles across the Capitol, the Senate has either held a trial or referred the matter to a special evidentiary committee to review accusations in depth.

Several Senate Democrats facing competitive reelection races, including Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) have declined to say how they will vote on a motion to dismiss.

“I’m going to read the articles,” said Tester, who told reporters last week that if the impeachment charges are more than just a “political stunt,” senators have “got to look at it seriously.”

If Tester or other Democrats vote against dismissing the charges, it could keep the impeachment debate alive in the Senate for days or weeks.

Several moderate Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) have questioned whether the House found clear evidence that Mayorkas committed high crimes and misdemeanors, and they suggested he only carried out the policies of the Biden administration.

But in a significant development Tuesday, Romney said he would vote against a motion to table the matter.

“I want to have debate and discussion of the articles of impeachment, whether that’s in trial or in committee,” he said. “I don’t think that there should be just a tabling without any process whatsoever.”

Senate conservatives say they would view any vote to immediately dismiss the charges as “nuking” Senate precedent and are vowing to retaliate by raising procedural hurdles against routine Senate business.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a leading conservative, said he and his colleagues will attempt to raise 15 points of order Wednesday to protest the failure to hold a trial or send impeachment to a special committee to further review it.

The House has charged Mayorkas with repeatedly violating immigration and border security laws and allowing “millions of aliens” to enter the United States illegally and “unlawfully” remain in the country.

They have accused him for “willfully” refusing to comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act, which requires the detention of migrants who are not clearly entitled to be admitted to the country, and instead “unlawfully released” migrants without establishing mechanisms to require their later appearance at immigration court removal proceedings.

The second article of impeachment charges Mayorkas with making false statements to Congress about the situation at the border and failing to comply with multiple congressional subpoenas.

Impeachment requires demonstrating that an official committed high crimes and misdemeanors, and a number of immigration law experts have said Mayorkas has not violated any statute in carrying out the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department panned the charges as “baseless” and a waste of time.

“Despite warnings from fellow Republicans that this baseless impeachment effort ‘distorts the Constitution,’ House Republicans continue to ignore the facts and undermine the Constitution by wasting even more time on this sham impeachment in the Senate,” said Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for the department.

The House voted mostly along party lines, 214-213, in February to approve two impeachment articles.

Three House Republicans voted against sending the charges to the Senate, and the first attempt to pass the articles of impeachment through the House failed by a vote of 214-216.

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