House Republicans are quietly ramping up their intra-party persuasion campaign to get the votes they need to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — and backers insist they’re making progress.
GOP leaders are facing serious pressure from conservatives eager to fulfill a big promise to the party’s base by voting to recommend the Homeland Security secretary’s removal over Biden administration border policies. But top Republicans remain short of the votes they need to impeach Mayorkas six months into their majority, which leaves their right flank in the position of chief salesperson.
“I think we’re getting pretty darn close,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who introduced impeachment articles against Mayorkas, said in a brief interview. “Some people have told me they are now gettable … and they just want to continue talking and dialoguing it and making sure they are comfortable with both the legal and the constitutional predicate.”
Biggs and his allies still face skepticism within the GOP conference — and, crucially, the Arizona Republican acknowledged, among Republicans in the Judiciary Committee, where impeachment articles would have to originate. While there is growing public pressure from some of the right flank’s most vocal members to make good on vows to hold the Biden administration accountable for the border, some centrists are still unsure, at best, that impeaching Mayorkas is a winning political message.
The unofficial impeachment whip campaign is playing out in public and behind the scenes. The Homeland Security Committee formally launched an investigation on Wednesday that will include a series of hearings and released a preliminary report laying out its evidence so far. Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee has planned out several hearings before the August recess, including testimony from Mayorkas himself in the final week of July, first reported by POLITICO.
Impeachment backers’ goal is to start publicly showing their GOP colleagues that the Homeland chief’s handling of the border meets the bar of a “high crime or misdemeanor” — a claim criticized by Democrats and even some Republicans.
Meanwhile, in private, they say they’re in near-constant contact with potential swing votes, members of relevant committees and leadership to make the case for what would be a historic vote — and one that has no shot at Senate approval.
Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee and is accusing Mayorkas of being “derelict” in doing his job, said their findings could ultimately meld with an impeachment effort. The investigation, according to Green, has the support of GOP leadership and will take roughly three months.
“We’re trying to get to the facts about why the situation is the way it is at the border. … If what we find in our compilation of everything warrants sending this to Judiciary, we absolutely will,” he said.
But pressed if he believed Republicans had the votes for impeachment, he stopped short: “We haven’t even gotten to that word, that process.”
Democrats, meanwhile, argue Republicans are trying to impeach Mayorkas over political differences and that the hearings constitute an impeachment inquiry without labeling it as such to get around divisions within their own conference. And it is far from clear that it will ultimately pan out, given Republicans will need near-total unity to clear it on the House floor.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced a resolution directing the Judiciary Committee to “investigate fully and completely whether sufficient grounds exist” for the House to impeach Mayorkas. The step is not as far as the impeachment resolution she previously introduced against the DHS secretary, but one she hopes could gain more traction more quickly within the conference.
“For those members that are on Judiciary who have been against impeachment — those Republican members, by the way — I think this is a lot different. So I feel very confident they’ll vote yes for an investigation even though they may not be for impeachment at this time,” Greene said in a brief interview.
But even that half-step may get dragged out. It was sent to the House Rules Committee, led by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oka.), a McCarthy ally who has previously expressed doubt about impeachment efforts. Asked if he would support an inquiry, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) instead pointed back to his panel’s existing efforts on the border, saying that “we’re supportive of getting all the facts and doing our oversight work.”
Democrats find that explanation of the slow-roll on Mayorkas dissatisfying, however. Instead, they say, it’s a way for Republicans to unofficially launch an impeachment inquiry, allowing them to cater to the base without alienating centrists.
“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,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.
A DHS spokesperson said that policy disagreements between House Republicans and Mayorkas — who, by their count, has testified before Congress more than another other member of Biden’s Cabinet — don’t meet the bar for impeachment.
“Instead of pointing fingers and pursuing a baseless impeachment, Congress should work with the Department and pass comprehensive legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in decades,” the spokesperson added.
And Republicans acknowledge they’ve still got work to do, on multiple fronts, to convince some of their GOP colleagues.
McCarthy has opened the door to impeachment in public comments, but not formally embraced it. Biggs said he views the California Republican was “kind of saying yes.” More of the struggle, Biggs said, lies with the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, where “a few” aren’t yet on board.
“They [each] had a different perspective on why they were struggling,” Biggs said about the GOP holdouts on the panel.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a member of leadership, expressed more confidence than Biggs that those members would come on board if they forced a vote, adding that the timing is up to McCarthy. But Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.), who like Johnson has a seat on Judiciary, suggested Republicans still had work to do before they were likely to move forward on an impeachment vote.
“At this point, the committee is still laying out the facts for the committee members and the American people. … We’ve got a lot of steps to take before an official impeachment proceeding is undertaken but I’m advocating that we move in that direction as quickly as possible,” said Cline, who backs impeachment.
And while the Homeland Security Committee includes vocal impeachment backers like Greene, it also has members like Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) who have been more publicly circumspect.
In the meantime, Democrats are keeping a close eye on how Republicans in Biden-won districts talk about a potential Mayorkas impeachment. The House Democratic campaign arm, in a memo circulated earlier this month, said that pursuing Mayorkas’ impeachment is one step McCarthy has taken that “endangers his most vulnerable members.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, one of those Biden-district Republicans, said “no one has approached me about” impeaching Mayorkas. And Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who holds another purple seat, pointed to the 2024 election as the avenue for litigating disagreements about Biden’s border policies.
“Honestly, Mayorkas is failing at his job, but what does impeachment out of the House gonna get you? … It’s going to be a lot of effort and does that not take us off other priorities? I think it does,” Bacon said.
He added that “the real issue is Joe Biden. … We need to get a new president in ‘24. That is the ultimate answer.”