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House Republicans impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlex Wong/Getty Images
  • House Republicans narrowly impeached DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

  • Only one other time in history has the House impeached a Cabinet official.

  • Last week, the GOP failed to impeach Mayorkas, an embarrassing moment for the party.

House Republicans voted on Tuesday evening to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise's return to Washington allowed Republicans to ram through the first impeachment of a Cabinet secretary in nearly 150 years. The final vote was 214 to 213 with four lawmakers missing the vote. Three Republicans, Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, joined Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Tom McClintock of California, joined Democrats in opposing impeachment.

The result allowed House Republicans to move past their failure last week. The GOP has sought to make Mayorkas the poster boy for the current crisis at the US-Mexico border. Still, Democrats have forced Republicans to grind out the process.

It remains unclear how seriously the Senate will treat the case. Some senators have indicated that they would like to quickly move to dismiss the charges.

President Joe Biden quickly trashed the GOP's efforts just minutes after the vote ended.

"History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

Why are Republicans attacking Mayorkas?

As Homeland Security secretary, Mayorkas oversees a vast agency that includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As a result, the GOP has tried to make him the poster boy for what they view as Biden's failed immigration policies.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who recently led a Republican delegation to the border, has said the situation is "a humanitarian catastrophe" with major national security concerns. Rep. Mark Green, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, has argued that Mayorkas has violated his oath of office. Green has gone as far as to say, "Hamas can walk just right in." (The issue of terrorism is a lot more complicated, as you'll see below.)

Politically, Republicans also view the issue as a winner. A CBS poll released over the weekend found that views of Biden's handling of immigration are at an all-time low. Democratic mayors and governors have also complained to the White House in the wake of Republicans sending waves of migrants to their cities.

What is the situation at the border like?

It's undeniable there is a crisis at the border. Last year ended with a record number of encounters, 10,000 people per day along the border.

"The numbers we are seeing now are unprecedented," Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told The Washington Post.

US Customs and Border Protection says more than 2.3 million migrants have been released into the US at the southern border under Biden's watch, The Post reported. Republicans often cite the more than 6 million people that have been taken into custody, a much different measure.

There is some debate about how the current situation compares. Politifact pointed out that there are some caveats to comparing the record-high influx under Biden to the past. The context is important, especially when comparing Trump and Biden administration data which measures "encounters" as opposed to "apprehensions." Immigration patterns, including who is trying to come into the US and how often they attempt to cross the border, have also changed. As NPR previously pointed out, the number of migrants making repeat attempts has skyrocketed. This means that when it comes to encounters, a single person could be responsible for multiple encounters if they repeatedly try to enter the US.

As for the terrorism claims, Republicans are basing their fears on the terrorism watchlist. The watchlist began as a much more limited grouping of names, but as CBS News reported earlier this year it has become a sweeping database that now includes roughly 2 million people. Johnson and other Republicans have pointed to the 312 migrants (it's now 326) out of the more than six million that federal officials have caught from October 2020 to now that match the names of people on the list. As The New York Times noted, just because someone matches a name on the list doesn't mean they are a guaranteed terrorist. The Homeland Security Department notes that for all these reasons apprehending a migrant on the watchlist is extremely rare.

What is the White House saying?

The White House has said the US immigration system has been "broken for decades." Officials have repeatedly pointed out that at the same time that Republicans are trying to impeach Mayorkas, he is working with senators from both parties on what would be the largest changes to US immigration laws in years.

Biden and the Homeland Security department quickly blasted the impeachment.

Has a Cabinet secretary been impeached before?

In its entire history, the House has only ever impeached one Cabinet secretary: former Secretary of War William Belknap under the Grant administration. Lawmakers accused Belknap of taking bribes to finance a lavish lifestyle while living on a meager government salary. In the face of his likely ouster, the former Civil War general rushed to the White House to hand President Ulysses S. Grant his resignation.

The House still impeached Belknap, though he was acquitted during a Senate trial. The core of Belknap's defense was that he was technically a private citizen both at the time of his impeachment (by just minutes) and during his monthslong trial. If that sounds familiar, it's because former President Donald Trump and most Senate Republicans made a similar defense during Trump's trial following the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

What happens next?

The Senate will now consider the charges against Mayorkas in an impeachment trial. No one expects the secretary to be convicted.

Is this guaranteed to happen?

Potentially. With Scalise's return, the GOP should have the numbers to ram through the impeachment. Republican congressional leadership has struggled recently though, meaning nothing should be viewed as a certainty.

Read the original article on Business Insider