House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign over his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that GOP lawmakers will consider impeachment next year if he does not step down.
“If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate, every order, every action and every failure will determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said at a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday.
McCarthy cited the Department of Homeland Security head's statements to Congress that the border is under control, record border crossing numbers and his ending of the "Remain in Mexico" asylum policy instituted during the Trump administration as reasons for resignation.
“Our country may never recover from Secretary Mayorkas’s dereliction of duty,” McCarthy said.
The comments from the minority leader are his strongest words on impeachment to date, but they fall short of a promise to bring up articles against Mayorkas.
McCarthy was nominated by House Republicans to serve as Speaker in the next Congress last week during a closed-door vote.
But he still faces opposition from hard-line conservatives, who called on him to be more aggressive on topics including the impeachment of Biden administration officials and President Biden himself.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, mounted a last-minute protest challenge to McCarthy for Speaker, citing the minority leader's lack of commitment to impeach Mayorkas. Biggs has previously introduced articles of impeachment against the administration official. He won 31 votes in the secret-ballot House Republican Conference meeting, while McCarthy received 188.
McCarthy needs support from a majority of those voting for a Speaker candidate on the House floor on Jan. 3 in order to be elected to the post.
But Republicans won a narrow majority in the 2022 midterms, and McCarthy has little wiggle room for error on that vote. A few Republicans, including Biggs, have indicated that they will not vote for him.
The press conference with other House GOP members came after a day of touring the U.S.-Mexico border and meeting with border officials.
McCarthy said that Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and James Comer (Ky.), the likely chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees next year, “have my complete support to investigate the collapse of our border, and the shutdown of ICE enforcement.”
“Leader McCarthy is right. Americans deserve accountability for the unprecedented crisis on the southwest border. Republicans will hold Secretary Mayorkas accountable for his failure to enforce immigration law and secure the border through all means necessary,” Jordan, who would oversee impeachment proceedings if they occurred, said in a statement distributed during the press conference.
Republicans made a pledge to investigate the Biden administration’s border and migration policies a key part of their midterm campaign message, and Comer has long said he will hold hearings about the border. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) joked in September that the House GOP would give Mayorkas a reserved parking spot because he would be testifying so often.
Mayorkas, who has no plans to resign, pushed back on Congress in a statement issued shortly after McCarthy's speech.
“Secretary Mayorkas is proud to advance the noble mission of this Department, support its extraordinary workforce, and serve the American people. The Department will continue our work to enforce our laws and secure our border, while building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
“Members of Congress can do better than point the finger at someone else; they should come to the table and work on solutions for our broken system and outdated laws, which have not been overhauled in over 40 years,” the statement continued.
In appearances before Congress last week, Mayorkas maintained that the border is under control, but he acknowledged that the fiscal year ending in September showed that a record 1.7 million migrants attempted to cross the Southwest border.
“The entire hemisphere is suffering a migration crisis. We are seeing unprecedented movement of people from country to country,” he said.
He also pledged to look for new ways to restrict immigration now that a federal court has struck down Title 42, which allowed the agency to quickly expel migrants without seeking asylum due to public health concerns.
Mayorkas said the department is currently evaluating how to expel Venezuelans at the border, a group that makes up a large part of migrants coming to America given the political and economic instability there.
The latest calls for Mayorkas to resign come shortly after U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus resigned from his position after being asked to do so by President Biden.
“This is his moment in time to do his job. But at any time if someone is derelict in their job, there is always the option of impeaching somebody,” McCarthy said at an April press conference in Eagle Pass, Texas.
But he later tamped down expectations for impeachment, saying that he does not want the procedure to be political as he claimed Democrats' impeachment of former President Trump was. McCarthy reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday in El Paso.
“We never do impeachment for political purposes. We’re having investigation,” McCarthy said.
“We know exactly what Secretary Mayorkas has done. We've watched across this nation, something that’s never happened before. We watched him time and again before committee say this border is secure, and we can't find one border agent who agrees with him,” McCarthy said. “So we will investigate. If investigation leads to impeachment inquiry, we will follow through.”
Rebecca Beitsch contributed.