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Mayorkas impeachment pressure builds inside the House GOP

<i>AP</i><br/>
AP

By Annie Grayer, Melanie Zanona and Haley Talbot, CNN

(CNN) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing fresh pressure from within his ranks – including from key allies and top lieutenants – to launch impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, multiple sources tell CNN, putting the speaker in a bind as he tries to show they’re taking aggressive action on the border without alienating the party’s moderate, so-called majority makers.

GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has long called to remove Mayorkas from office over problems at the southern border, met with McCarthy on Monday to make her case for why the House GOP should pursue impeachment now that Title 42 has lifted, even though the expiration of the pandemic public health emergency policy – which allowed migrants to be turned away at the border – did not produce the surge that officials had expected.

“There’s a lot of renewed interest,” Greene, an influential McCarthy ally, told CNN.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a top deputy on McCarthy’s leadership team, called for the impeachment of Mayorkas for the first time publicly on Friday – a sign that the movement is growing from the fringe to the mainstream of the GOP.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, whose committee would be tasked with launching impeachment proceedings, and GOP leadership have an understanding that the impeachment of Mayorkas is inevitable, a source familiar with leadership’s thinking told CNN, and members on the Judiciary Committee have recently discussed the prospect of impeachment.

“It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when,” the source said.

Publicly however Jordan has taken a more measured approach, telling CNN on Monday, “We think that’s warranted, but that’s a decision for the entire conference.”

Texas GOP Rep. Pat Fallon, who filed articles of impeachment in January and told CNN his constituents are “screaming” over Mayorkas, got dinner with a member of McCarthy’s leadership team last week and told them, “We need to have a vote on this.”

“I think there is a growing movement of people who want to impeach Mayorkas,” a GOP lawmaker in leadership told CNN. “I can tell you just from the people that have been talking to me, coming back from this weekend, there seems to be a lot of desire to impeach Mayorkas.”

But despite growing pressure across the conference, McCarthy has privately told members he wants more time for committees to hold hearings on the subject before they move on impeachment articles – a sign the full Republican Conference is not yet sold on the politically dicey prospect of impeachment. It’s exceedingly rare for a Cabinet secretary to be impeached, something that has only happened once in US history when William Belknap, the secretary of war, was impeached by the House before being acquitted by the Senate in 1876.

“I know people are very frustrated with (Mayorkas),” McCarthy told CNN, but emphasized he wants to make sure any impeachment is not being pursued “for political reasons.”

Democrats say impeaching Mayorkas would amount to just that, arguing that policy disputes hardly rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. Not to mention, the effort would go nowhere in the Senate, further reinforcing the idea that impeaching Mayorkas would serve more as a messaging endeavor than an actual solution.

One GOP lawmaker, granted anonymity to speak freely, characterized the conference by saying, “My sense is still there are a large number that are just concerned that this would be a lot of capital invested in something that won’t bring about any change.”

A DHS spokesperson said in a statement to CNN, “Instead of pointing fingers and pursuing a baseless impeachment, Congress should work with the Department and pass legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in over 40 years.”

The White House has also defended its handling of the border, most recently pointing to how it prepared for the expiration of Title 42. On Sunday, Mayorkas said that US border authorities have “experienced a 50% drop in the number of encounters,” compared with earlier in the week, when encounters along the US southern border were at around 10,000 migrants a day.

‘A lot of tires in the mud:’ skepticism on impeaching Mayorkas remains

House Republicans – who made the border a central campaign theme in the midterms – have already held numerous trips to the southern border and have hauled in Mayorkas to testify in front of several committees. And last week, the House passed a border security and immigration package along party lines after months of internal negotiations. But leadership is still facing pressure to show they’re taking aggressive action to address problems at the border.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green is taking a lead role in the fact-finding phase, helping to build the case for impeachment through a “five-phase accountability plan” before handing it off to the Judiciary Committee.

Green, a Republican from Tennessee, acknowledged the momentum for the issue within the conference. “They want us doing something, yeah, they want us to hold him accountable,” he told CNN, adding that the hardline House Freedom Caucus in particular is “going crazy over it.”

Rep. Ben Cline, a Republican from Virginia who serves on the House Judiciary Committee – the panel where impeachment would originate – told CNN he has communicated to Jordan, the panel’s chairman, “we need to start the process” as “soon as possible.”

In the impeachment articles that have been filed, Republicans have accused Mayorkas of undermining the operational control of the southern border, encouraging illegal immigration and lying to Congress that the border was secure – all charges that the administration has dismissed.

But a number of lawmakers are still hesitant to pursue impeachment of Mayorkas given the narrow majority Republicans hold in the House and lack of appetite for a conviction in the Senate. Some lawmakers suggested the GOP conference would therefore be better off pursuing issues surrounding Mayorkas’ role with the border through the budget and appropriations process where it is historically easier to build consensus.

GOP Rep. Don Bacon, who hails from a Nebraska swing district, described any GOP efforts to pursue impeachment as “a lot of tires in the mud” given the makeup of the House and Senate.

“In the end President Biden owns this and is responsible and I hope the voters hold him accountable in November,” he added.

Another GOP lawmaker representing a district Biden won, Rep. David Valadao of California, told CNN when asked for his position on whether to impeach Mayorkas, “I haven’t spent any time on that.”

Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, a House Judiciary Committee member who believes at a minimum impeachment proceedings have to be considered, cautioned, “It’s important that if we do an impeachment hearing that we not prejudge” and called for “a legitimate trial.”

GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida called out Mayorkas for failing to do his job and to be transparent but claimed, “I don’t know what the standards are for impeachment.”

Despite consistent uncertainty, lawmakers think with time, more Republicans will get on board.

“I think it’s a matter of just trying to work it through,” GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told CNN. “We’re having the conversations that we need to have. But I think there’s a strong consensus building that he needs to be impeached.”

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