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House sends Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate as clash over trial looms

Speaker Johnson facing new removal bid
House speaker faces removal bid as articles of impeachment for Mayorkas delivered to Senate 02:18

Washington — House Republicans presented the articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on Tuesday, kicking off a confrontation over an impeachment trial that's been brewing for weeks. 

More than two months after the lower chamber voted to impeach the Cabinet secretary, House impeachment managers walked the articles over to the Senate in a ceremonial process that triggers the start of the Senate's role in the matter.

"The managers on the part of the House of Representatives are present and ready to present the articles of impeachment," Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, one of the House impeachment managers, said as he began reading the impeachment articles on the Senate floor. 

The upper chamber is compelled by Senate rules to convene as a court of impeachment after the articles have been transmitted. Though the House voted to impeach Mayorkas in February in a historic vote that marked the first time a Cabinet secretary has been impeached in nearly 150 years, House leaders opted to wait until after a government funding fight to present the issue to the Senate. And although they intended to begin the process last week, Senate Republicans made a push to delay the proceedings until this week amid concerns over attendance. 

House impeachment managers deliver articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate at the Capitol on April 16, 2024.
House impeachment managers deliver articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate at the Capitol on April 16, 2024. JULIA NIKHINSON/AFP via Getty Images

But even after the GOP push to delay the articles' transmission, the duration of the trial in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where the effort is widely seen as a political stunt, has not been determined. 

The impeachment push in the House

Many Republicans in Congress want to punish Mayorkas for the Biden administration's handling of the U.S.-Mexico border, claiming that the secretary has failed to enforce the nation's laws and stop tens of thousands of migrants from crossing the border.

DHS has denounced the effort as "baseless," saying that House Republicans "continue to ignore the facts and undermine the Constitution" with the impeachment push. 

"Congressional Republicans should stop wasting time with unfounded attacks, and instead do their job by passing bipartisan legislation to properly fund the Department's vital national security missions and finally fix our broken immigration system," a DHS spokesperson said in a statement. 

In January, House Republicans released two articles of impeachment accusing Mayorkas of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and a "breach of public trust." In February, after an initial attempt failed, the House voted narrowly to impeach Mayorkas under the articles, with three Republicans and all Democrats opposing. 

The first article outlines how House Republicans say Mayorkas "has repeatedly violated laws enacted by Congress regarding immigration and border security." By releasing many asylum seekers into the U.S. and allowing more than 1 million to enter under an authority known as parole, the resolution accused Mayorkas of overstepping his authority and disregarding federal laws. 

The second impeachment article accuses Mayorkas of "knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people and avoiding lawful oversight in order to obscure the devastating consequences of his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and carry out his statutory duties."

Still, constitutional scholars argue that the allegations against Mayorkas do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. Under the Constitution, the basis for impeachment is "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." And although enough House Republicans supported the impeachment effort in the lower chamber, the effort is all but certain to die in the Senate. 

The Senate's role in impeachments

Under the Constitution, the House has the "sole Power" of impeachment, while the Senate has the authority to hold a trial. Impeachment is only the first step toward removing an official from office, followed by a Senate trial, which could result in removal. But how that trial proceeds is largely up to the Senate's Democratic majority.

After the House transmits the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber, the chamber must schedule a trial to begin the next legislative day, according to Senate rules. After the Senate has convened, the majority makes the calls. With 51 seats controlled by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the majority can speed up, delay or dismiss the impeachment outright.

Senators are expected to be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday. Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the GOP delay last week that "our plan over here has not changed — the Senate is ready to go whenever the House is."

"We want to address this issue as expeditiously as possible," Schumer said. "Impeachment should never be used to settle policy disagreements, that sets an awful precedent."

Johnson and the 11 impeachment managers penned a letter to Schumer last month saying they would present the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber on April 10 and urging the Senate leader to schedule a trial "expeditiously." Among the impeachment managers are Green, Michael McCaul of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Michael Guest of Mississippi, Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Laurel Lee of Florida, August Pfluger of Texas, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

"If he cares about the Constitution and ending the devastation caused by Biden's border catastrophe, Senator Schumer will quickly schedule a full public trial and hear the arguments put forth by our impeachment managers," Johnson said in a statement. 

Nikole Killion contributed reporting.

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