House Republicans inched closer this week toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, officially launching an investigation that would serve as the basis for any inquiry.
But conservative supporters of the effort still face enormous hurdles, including a reluctance of leadership to take such a drastic step and the continued opposition from more moderate lawmakers in the GOP conference — barriers that even the loudest Mayorkas critics have been forced to acknowledge.
On Wednesday, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee said they would review Mayorkas’s performance through a five-phase plan, which Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said could be completed in a matter of 11 or 12 weeks.
“His policies have resulted in a humanitarian crisis this country has never seen,” Green said at a press conference.
“Today's hearing will begin the process of digging into all of the details. The cause and effect of Alejandro Mayorkas’s dereliction of duty. I hope the American people will listen intently. I hope the press will report this, honestly. I hope the president of the United States, the commander in chief charged with the security and protection of this country, will listen. He can't possibly know of all of these failures of Mayorkas and have not fired him already.”
It’s a process that faces a complex path in the House — and one that’s already highlighted several layers of division within the GOP conference. Not only is there discord between impeachment supporters and opponents, but there’s also growing tension among Mayorkas’s most vocal critics, all of whom seem to want to play a prominent role in the effort to oust him.
“We don't have the votes,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said Tuesday. Asked what would change the minds of the Republican opponents, he offered a biting criticism of his centrist colleagues.
“An embrace of logic and reason,” he said.
Green’s presser was followed by a hearing titled “Open Borders, Closed Case: Secretary Mayorkas’ Dereliction of Duty on the Border Crisis.”
Democrats argued the hearing’s name alone shows Republicans have already reached a conclusion on whether to take the dramatic step of impeaching a cabinet secretary — an action not seen since the 1870s.
“You may have a difference of opinion as to how the United States should process our asylum applicants. But the notion that that difference of a policy opinion would be the basis for a quote unquote, ‘case closed’ that Secretary Mayorkas is violating his duty, is preposterous and it is not any basis for impeachment,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who before entering Congress worked as lead counsel for the first impeachment inquiry against former President Trump.
The move, six months into GOP leadership of the House, follows wrangling within the conference over how speedily to pursue the topic.
While a slew of lawmakers introduced impeachment resolutions days after the contentious vote to give the gavel to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the most recent effort was offered by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a sign of discontent among those eager to speed ahead.
It also comes as border numbers have dropped in the weeks following the May lifting of a policy that allowed the U.S. to quickly deny entry to would-be asylum seekers, bucking widespread predictions of a surge of migrants. The repeal of that policy, however, was paired with the reintroduction of consequences for those caught wrongly crossing the border.
“The number of Border Patrol encounters have plummeted by 70 percent since the Biden administration ended Title 42 last month. The number of overall border encounters have dropped by 50 percent in that time, due in large part to [Homeland Security's] hard work under Secretary Mayorkas’s leadership,” ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the hearing.
“Calling a hearing and saying ‘case closed’ before you’ve heard any testimony is not legitimate oversight. ... It’s about House Republican leadership catering to its most extreme MAGA members, who want to impeach someone — anyone at all. It’s about trying to make good on GOP backroom deals to elect a Speaker, raise the debt ceiling and stave off a mutiny in the Republican ranks.”
The House Homeland Security Committee doesn’t have the power to ignite an impeachment inquiry. That task falls to the House Judiciary Committee.
Green has cast the investigation as an effort that will be handed off to the other panel and ultimately brought to fruition by Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The firebrand Georgia congresswoman, however, offered her impeachment resolution with a tweet that included an emoji of a slice of cake, a reference to earlier comments that the debt ceiling package would be more appealing if it included “dessert” like an impeachment of Mayorkas or FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The move was a reflection of impatience from some in the GOP, even as McCarthy has largely stuck to comments he made while visiting the border late last year stressing the need to investigate.
“I know people are very frustrated with [Mayorkas],” McCarthy told CNN last month, but added that any impeachment process shouldn’t be pursued “for political reasons.”
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), former head of the far-right Freedom Caucus, suggested the Speaker is moving closer toward backing the impeachment effort.
"McCarthy has loosened up on that. Whereas quite some time ago he was a no, now he’s kinda saying — kinda saying — yes,” Biggs said. Other reluctant Republicans are also shifting, he said.
“There are people who were an absolute ‘no’ on it even a few weeks ago, and now told me that they're moveable,” he said. “There's probably two or three people that I'm trying to work on, see if I can move them my way. And if those two or three come along, I think then we're ready to go.”
Green sidestepped questions over whether the caucus would be able to secure the votes to impeach Mayorkas.
“I would say it’s intuitively obvious to the casual observer, that Republicans are individualists and we think independently, we’re not robots being told by a Speaker how to vote,” he said in a nod to the standstill on the House floor led by a group of far-right members who stalled a vote on a GOP bill on gas stoves as a way to voice frustration with McCarthy's handling of the debt ceiling.
“And so, there are many people with differences of opinions about this. And, you know, I'm in a leadership position, and from my leadership position, the direction of our committee is to get to the facts.”
The Department of Homeland Security has pushed back on GOP arguments and has largely blamed Congress for issues at the border.
“The immigration system has been terribly broken and outdated for decades. That is something about which everyone agrees, and it is my hope that they take that problem, and they fix it once and for all. In the meantime, within a broken system, we are doing everything that we can to increase its efficiency, to provide humanitarian relief when the law permits and to also deliver an enforcement consequence when the law dictates,” Mayorkas said earlier this year during an appearance on MSNBC.
“That is exactly what we are doing, and as far as I am concerned, I will continue to do that with tremendous pride with the people with whom I work."
Green said his five-point plan includes investigations into cartels as well as the financial cost associated with migration.
“The guy has got to go,” Green said.
“We're going to hold him accountable. And if the president picks another guy that does this kind of stuff, we'll do what we have to do there too.”