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Surprise Democratic vote on Mayorkas overshadows GOP defectors

Republicans have cast their embarrassing failure to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the House floor this week as a numbers game, saying it will be rectified during a second vote when all of their members are present.

But the GOP wasn’t just tripped up by the surprise appearance of Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), whose presence helped Democrats overcome the effort.

It also was sunk with the help of three Republican defectors who accused their GOP colleagues of politicizing impeachment and failing to comply with the Constitution.

The Tuesday night impeachment effort had no shortage of drama.

An initial vote on a noncontroversial measure appeared to lull Republicans into a false sense of security by suggesting each party was dealing with one absent member.

Then Green was wheeled into the chamber, still wearing his hospital garb after leaving the bed where he was recovering from abdominal surgery.

His attendance and vote meant the three GOP “no” votes were enough for a tie vote, preventing the impeachment of Mayorkas. Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) then switched his vote to “no” in a procedural gambit that allows the measure to be swiftly reconsidered.

“The Democrats played hide-and-seek with us,” Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) told reporters Wednesday. “But it’s not gonna matter when [House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)] gets back and we have a clear majority, and we’ll put it back up.”

While many Republicans cast Tuesday as an embarrassing speed bump, the loss also came after they couldn’t completely unify on impeaching Mayorkas. The members who voted “no” had been highly critical in their opposition — writing op-eds and releasing memos suggesting their colleagues were abusing their power.

“I don’t see how you can just ignore the fact that three of your own members voted against it,” Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) told The Hill.

“They should listen to those rational, thinking members of theirs. It’s not easy bucking your party on such an issue that they have put so much stock into. And it really is a reflection of how misguided this entire impeachment effort is,” he added.

“Ultimately, it failed because of the merits.”

The GOP’s articles of impeachment took a novel approach to the issue, suggesting Mayorkas violated immigration law by failing to detain enough migrants along with another section stating he “violated the public trust.”

Immigration law experts said Mayorkas’s implementation of the statutes was not unlawful. Other portions of the articles of impeachment contained misleading or even incorrect information — including faulting Mayorkas for leaving a Trump-era agreement that was undone by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) took prominent stands against the bill before the vote, with the Colorado Republican casting the effort as “pushing a partisan impeachment not based on what the Constitution actually states.”

McClintock wrote a 10-page memo that said Republicans were reversing on the standard they used when evaluating former President Trump’s impeachment, likewise noting his colleagues had failed to find evidence of a crime.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) warned Republicans they would be haunted by hypocrisy in supporting the bill and likewise argued his colleagues failed to meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors laid out in the Constitution.

“Incompetence doesn’t rise to the level of high crimes or misdemeanors. The proponents of impeachment concede that the framers rejected the idea that policy disputes or ‘maladministration’ constitute grounds for impeachment,” he wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal shared shortly after his surprise “no” vote.

“The articles of impeachment even tacitly admit there are other options available to Congress,” he added, noting a Supreme Court opinion that sided with the Biden administration in upholding their detention policy encouraged congressional oversight and legislation as a way to confront the executive branch.

Gallagher’s vote appeared to set off a last-ditch lobbying effort, as GOP colleagues surrounded him for an intense conversation before the vote closed.

Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), one of those encircling Gallagher, wouldn’t detail much of their conservation but acknowledged Gallagher, who could be spotted with arms folded, was unconvinced.

“Mike is a man of great principle; one of the handful of folks that I have the utmost respect for because … he doesn’t care about the politics. He understands them. He understands the consequences politically to things and all he wants to do is the right thing,” Arrington said.

“And his conscience wouldn’t let him vote to impeach.”

Buck called Gallagher’s decision “a big deal,” highlighting the role of a committee chair in bucking his own party.

“People around here should take note of it because they’re losing a group of Republicans that are really important,” added Buck, who is retiring at the end of this Congress.

Buck acknowledged that Republicans probably will pass the Mayorkas impeachment articles once Scalise, who is undergoing treatment for blood cancer, returns for votes.

“The vote is a matter of numbers always. But I don’t think it’s a matter of numbers when you’re looking at the Constitution and whether it’s the right thing to do,” Buck said.

The GOP did convince a few of their members who looked like they might vote “no” to back impeachment. These lawmakers included Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), who less than a month before the vote said he had yet to see evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors from Mayorkas.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday morning shrugged off the loss as little more than a math error on the part of leadership.

“We have a razor-thin margin here and every vote counts. Sometimes when you’re counting votes, and people show up when they’re not expected to be in the building, it changes the equation,” he said, nodding to Green’s last-minute arrival.

But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) mocked Republicans for directing their dissatisfaction at Green.

“How dare the Democrats engage in the completely deceptive and sneaky behavior of voting?” he said, adding that Republicans were failing to assess the broader barriers to winning the vote.

“If an entire battle and war seems to have gone in a particular direction because of one small detail, there were larger forces in the background that determined that events would end such as they did,” Raskin said.

“So they can blame it on Al Green … They can blame it on Ken Buck, or what have you, but the point is that their whole impeachment drive against Mayorkas for policy differences is doomed to failure.”

While many Republicans were surprised by Green’s entrance, not all faulted his appearance — or the way it blindsided leadership.

Giménez described his reaction to seeing the lawmaker wheeled into the vote as, “Wait a minute — he’s here?”

“I can’t blame the whip for that. I certainly can’t blame the Speaker for that. And on the other side, I can’t blame him for that either,” Giménez said of Green.

“Hey, we all laid our cards on the table.”

Aris Folley contributed.

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