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House Republicans impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Republican-led House voted along party lines last night to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: On this vote, the yays are 214, and the nays are 213. The resolution is adopted.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The articles of impeachment, passed by that single vote accused Mayorkas of refusing to comply with immigration laws. Now, according to the text, more people are coming to the United States these days, and the administration has paroled many into the U.S. to wait for their court dates. Past administrations have also paroled people because the U.S. lacks enough detention centers to hold migrants - or courts to give them quick hearings. Democrats, and a few Republicans, cast this as a policy disagreement rather than an impeachable offense.

FADEL: NPR political reporter Ximena Bustillo has more on this, and she joins me now. Good morning.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So as we heard there, House Republicans barely had enough votes to impeach Mayorkas last night. And this is their second try. How did this impeachment become such a focus for the party?

BUSTILLO: Well, Republicans have been preparing for this impeachment since they gained control of the House. The Republican base and conservative media figures have been calling for the impeachment of several Biden administration officials, including Mayorkas and Biden himself, since the 2022 midterm elections. But with Democrats running the Senate and Biden in the White House, they really have no way to change laws. Instead, they've really focused on investigations and oversight as a way to follow through on promises to hold the Biden administration accountable. This impeachment, though, has been a bit divisive, even among their own members. Three Republicans voted against impeachment last night, and the same three voted no last week. The difference this time was House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was back in town after lengthy absence to seek treatment for cancer.

FADEL: I mean, this is highly unusual, the first time a sitting secretary's impeached in 150 years. What laws is Mayorkas actually accused of breaking here?

BUSTILLO: They're accusing Mayorkas of not complying with immigration law, particularly when it comes to detainments and of making false statements.

FADEL: At this point, as Steve pointed out, this is a time where more people are just showing up at the border, and the Republicans are saying Mayorkas is patrolling too many of them. Is this just a policy disagreement? Should it be an impeachment?

BUSTILLO: Right. Democrats are arguing that this is politically motivated, as you noted, and it has been over a hundred years since an impeachment of its kind. Democrats in the House insist that this is not the right response. They say Republicans have a policy disagreement with the White House. And the same three Republicans who have rejected this measure have generally raised concerns about the strength of the case against Mayorkas. There have also been concerns about the standards set by impeaching him over policies that, again, are set by Biden and not Mayorkas himself. But Speaker Johnson defended the process last week, and he said that Mayorkas refuses to enforce the laws and left them with no other option. The Homeland Security Department last night said after the vote that they believe there's no shred of evidence of this.

FADEL: OK. So this happened in the House. It's going to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. So does it just die there?

BUSTILLO: It does not. So there are impeachment managers that have already assigned, and there is a Senate trial that will begin sometime after the senators return to D.C. around the 26. But a conviction requires two-thirds vote, and that simply will not happen in the Senate, controlled by Democrats.

FADEL: OK. So this all fits into a broader jockeying between the two parties over who's to blame for the border. Is there any expectation that Congress can actually address some of these policy issues before the election?

BUSTILLO: I mean, that's extremely unlikely. We saw a bipartisan border security agreement fail last week in the Senate. Senate Democrats have rejected the House-option version of the bill, which they say is too hard-line. And Biden has vowed to veto that as well.

FADEL: NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Thank you.

BUSTILLO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.