Jan 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Republican push to impeach Mayorkas meets chilly Senate GOP reception

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Senate Republicans are unconvinced by the case so far against a top House Republican impeachment target: Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Why it matters: Republicans don't have the votes in the Senate to remove Mayorkas, but a House vote to impeach him could backfire politically if some Republicans defect and vote to acquit him in a Senate trial.

What they're saying: "I haven't seen the Constitutional standard met yet. We'll see what they find in their investigation," said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

  • Romney added: "From what I can tell, he's carrying out the policies of his boss, the president, for which you don't impeach the secretary."
  • "I've got to see what their evidence is," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a perennial skeptic of House GOP impeachment efforts.
  • "Oh my gosh," exclaimed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) when asked about the effort to impeach Mayorkas. "We have some things to do. I'd like us all to be working really fast on appropriations."
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said impeachment is a "waste of time" unless it's targeting Biden and predicted Senate Democrats won't hold a trial anyway, arguing Republicans should instead make their case directly to the public: "This is an election year, we can solve a lot of those problems in 10 months."

The latest: The House Homeland Security Committee has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on "how Secretary Mayorkas' failed leadership has impacted the states."

  • It's part of multi-phase impeachment proceedings the panel is leading, which began with a report labeling Mayorkas the "chief architect" of a surge of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border and accusing him of "dereliction of duty," ignoring court rulings and lying to Congress.
  • Some Republicans who opposed impeaching Mayorkas in the past have warmed to the effort, with Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) telling Axios he is on board despite it being a "distraction from more important issues."

The intrigue: The impeachment push comes as Mayorkas is engaged in negotiations with senators on a deal to pair border security spending and immigration policy changes with aid to Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the Senate GOP lead in those talks, told Punchbowl News that Mayorkas "is carrying out President Biden's policies ... you can swap secretaries – the policies are going to be exactly the same."

The big picture: Some senators who are keeping an open mind expressed concern that the bar for impeachment is being lowered too much.

  • "If they feel like they have a case and they go through a methodical process, I'm willing to consider it," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). "But I'm not willing to start using ... impeachment as a sort of vote of no confidence."
  • "He needs to enforce the laws, so there's that issue, but ... impeachment ... is never the answer just to disagreements on policy," Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told Axios. "Doing his job, that's a different story."

The other side: Other GOP senators said they are comfortable with the idea of impeaching Mayorkas.

  • "I can sure understand why they're proceeding as they are," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said of House Republicans. "He and the president have this outrageous policy at the border."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Mayorkas "should have been gone a long time ago, I've got no use for Mayorkas," adding that he would vote for conviction.

Axios' Stef Kight contributed reporting to this story.

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