Nov 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy threatens potential Mayorkas “impeachment inquiry”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wearing a blue suit jacket, white shirt and red tie, speaks in front of a blue backdrop at the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership meeting in Las Vegas.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Photo: Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday threatened a potential “impeachment inquiry” into Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border if the Biden administration official does not resign.

Why it matters: The comments reinforced McCarthy's past hints about a prospective Mayorkas impeachment effort — a nod to the GOP conference’s right flank as it threatens to scuttle his bid for speaker.

  • Several members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus have been threatening to deny McCarthy pivotal votes when the House selects a speaker in January — and all are co-sponsors of an impeachment resolution against Mayorkas.
  • The remarks attracted immediate rebuke from Biden administration officials who denounced the event as a "political stunt."
  • Mayorkas "has no plans to resign," DHS spokesperson Marsha Espinosa told Axios.

What they’re saying: During a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, McCarthy said Mayorkas "cannot and must not" remain in his post, and that if he doesn't resign, Republicans "will investigate every order, every action and every failure.”

  • Those probes, he said, “will determine whether we can begin [an] impeachment inquiry.” Asked what specific crimes could lead to impeachment, McCarthy said: “The orders, lying to the American public, withholding ICE from doing their jobs, not following through with what the laws on the books are today.”
  • McCarthy pointed to Mayorkas stating at a congressional hearing this month that the border is secure as an example of him lying.
  • "We never do impeachment for political purposes. We're having an investigation. We know exactly what Mayorkas has done," McCarthy said. "If the investigation leads to an impeachment inquiry, we will follow through."

Zoom in: McCarthy rattled off other grievances against Mayorkas, including the Biden administration's efforts to end Trump-era border policies, the apprehension of terror suspects at the border and a spike in fentanyl trafficking.

The other side: "Secretary Mayorkas is proud to advance the noble mission of this Department, support its extraordinary workforce, and serve the American people.  He has no plans to resign," DHS' Espinosa said in a statement.

  • The department "will continue our work to enforce our laws and secure our border, while building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system," she said.
  • Espinosa said lawmakers "can do better than point the finger at someone else," calling on them to "come to the table and work on solutions for our broken system and outdated laws, which have not been overhauled in over 40 years.”

By the numbers: The past two fiscal years set new records for border crossings, with more than 2 million for 2022.

  • The numbers are so high in part due to an increase in migrants attempting to cross multiple times, which advocates and experts attribute to the ongoing use of a Trump-era policy allowing border officials to immediately expel migrants and asylum seekers.
  • The Biden administration has also grappled with a surge in Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans coming across the border — people who are not easily returned to their home countries due to frosty diplomatic relations.
  • A DHS spokesperson said the administration has "managed an unprecedented number of noncitizens seeking to enter the United States, interdicted more drugs, and disrupted more smuggling operations than ever before."

The backdrop: The House’s most right-wing members have been agitating for impeachment against President Biden and several of his officials since the first day of his administration.

  • GOP leadership has carefully avoided endorsing those efforts.
  • However, impeaching Mayorkas has been the most mainstream position — the conservative Republican Study Committee, which has more than 150 members, has been laying the groundwork for it, Axios reported in April.
  • Still, leadership is walking a careful line — House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) declined to commit to impeaching Mayorkas during a closed-door GOP conference meeting last week, according to a source in the room.

Reality check: The House GOP is expected to have a majority of just a handful of seats, and several of the newly elected House Republicans from Biden districts have expressed distaste for the idea of impeachment, Axios reported last week.

  • That math could make passing an impeachment resolution in the House — let alone the Senate, where it would surely fail — extremely difficult.
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