Senate Votes To Dismiss Impeachment Charges Against Alejandro Mayorkas

WASHINGTON ― The Senate voted Wednesday to dismiss all impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, declaring them unconstitutional, and adjourned without holding a trial.

There were two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. Democrats voted to dismiss the first one in a 51-48 vote, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voting “present.” They successfully dismissed the second one as well, despite Murkowski joining her party in voting to proceed with this one.

Democrats moved to table the charges outright because Mayorkas’ actions as homeland security chief don’t rise to the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors, a view that even some Republicans share.

In remarks on the Senate floor ahead of the votes, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the effort to oust Mayorkas “the least legitimate, least substantive and most politicized impeachment trial in the history of the United States.”

“The hard right wants to exploit the supremely serious matter of impeachment for the sake of cable news hits and content for social media,” Schumer said. “This is an illegitimate and profane abuse of the U.S. Constitution.”

Prior to the start of the trial, Senate leaders were trying to negotiate an agreement that would allow senators time to debate the case against Mayorkas along with a series of votes on Republican points of order before ultimately voting to dismiss the case.

Several Republican senators, including Mitt Romney of Utah, said that debating the matter would protect the process of impeachment for the future even though they didn’t believe that Mayorkas deserved to be ousted from his job.

But conservative Republicans who have been loudly advocating for Mayorkas’ impeachment objected to that trial structure. They believed that Mayorkas displayed a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and that he was guilty of a “breach of public trust” over his handling of the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, as charged by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

“I will not assist Sen. Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze and bulldozing 200 years of precedent,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) said after objecting to the agreement, protesting the fact that Democrats would ultimately move to dismiss the case anyway.

With no agreement on debate, Schumer moved to dispense with both articles by declaring them unconstitutional ― the same move Republicans unsuccessfully tried during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In the end, Romney voted with his party to sustain the trial on both counts. Murkowski, meanwhile, said she voted present on the first count because Mayorkas was simply carrying out the policies of the Biden administration.

After the Senate finished its business for the day, which took about three hours of votes on the floor, with every senator seated at their desk and acting as juror, Republicans warned that Democrats would regret setting a precedent for impeachment trials, including those involving presidents.

“Barring some very extraordinary event… you will not have an impeachment trial as long as the president and the Senate are in the same party,” Romney predicted.

But Schumer rejected that argument, making the case that if the Mayorkas trial were allowed to proceed, the Senate would also be setting a precedent for the impeachment process to be used to settle mere policy disagreements.

“Any time the House would want to just shut the Senate down, they could send over another impeachment resolution,” Schumer said, warning that impeachment could be abused to cripple Senate business.

Shortly after the votes were done, the White House signaled that it, too, is ready to move on.

“Once and for all, the Senate has rightly voted down this baseless impeachment that even conservative legal scholars said was unconstitutional,” said White House spokesperson Ian Sams.

“President [Joe] Biden and Secretary Mayorkas will continue doing their jobs to keep America safe and pursue actual solutions at the border, and Congressional Republicans should join them, instead of wasting time on baseless political stunts while killing real bipartisan border security reforms.”

In reality, Wednesday’s drama on the Senate floor had far more to do with election year politics. Divided Republicans in the House didn’t have the votes to impeach Biden, but they went after Mayorkas. The GOP wanted to use the trial to put vulnerable Senate Democrats in a tough spot and highlight the Biden administration’s handling migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Democrats united and killed the trial, countering that if Republicans were serious about fixing the situation on the border, they’d have supported the bipartisan legislation Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill killed back in February.

“It’s more important for them to be able to score political points by going to the border and dressing up as patrol agents or yelling about Secretary Mayorkas on cable news than it is for them to actually do something about the challenges at the border,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who helped negotiate the bill with Senate Republicans, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“If House Republicans were serious people, the bipartisan border security bill that I helped to write would be law,” he added.