Mayorkas impeached by House as speaker tells Independent he ‘deserved’ it over border ‘catastrophe’

The US House of Representatives impeached Alejandro Mayorkas, homeland security secretary, in a party-line vote on Tuesday evening.

The vote succeeded along GOP lines, winning 214-213. Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the articles of impeachment: Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Tom McClintock of California.

The articles of impeachment allege that Mr Mayorkas engaged in a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” by allowing the release of migrants awaiting legal proceedings and breached “public trust” when he told lawmakers the US-Mexico border was secure.

A cabinet official was last impeached 148 years ago in 1876 under president Ulysses S Grant.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, praised the vote on Tuesday evening just moments after it was finalised.

“The secretary certainly deserved that response,” Mr Johnson told The Independent as he left the House floor. “Based upon his activity and inactivity over the last three years, he’s engineered the catastrophe that exacted untold damage on the country, and this is the appropriate step.”

As Department of Homeland Security secretary, Mr Mayorkas oversees border enforcement and immigration policies, such as the asylum process and the possible detention of migrants.

As such, many GOP representatives view him as the prime target for their frustration at the rapid rise of border crossings. However, those in favour of impeachment have struggled to provide evidence that Mr Mayorkas is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours – the constitutional standard for impeachment.

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the hard-right ally of former president Donald Trump, had pushed for the impeachment of Mr Mayorkas. Upon Mr Johnson announcing the vote count, one of her aides cheered “Let’s go”, watching the vote on his phone off the floor.

Rep Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the homeland security committee, told The Independent that the impeachment was an appeal to Mr Trump.

“They’re just playing to the extreme element of the party, obviously listening to Donald Trump” the Mississippi Democrat told The Independent.

President Joe Biden condemned the partisan vote on Tuesday night.

“History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Johnson encouraged the vote to please the former president.

“This sham impeachment effort is another embarrassment for House Republicans,” he said in the statement. “The one and only reason for this impeachment is for Speaker Johnson to further appease Donald Trump.”

As the leader of the Senate, Mr Schumer would determine whether an impeachment trial, which is highly unlikely, would take place. But House Republicans, including ones in districts that voted for Mr Biden who face re-election, said it was important to hold the vote nonetheless.

Now that Mr Mayorkas has been impeached the Senate will move to hold an impeachment trial. They would then require a 2/3 vote to convict – but with a Democratic majority in the Senate, and many Republicans opposed to holding such a trial, such an outcome is unlikely.

“We’re making a statement, I think our voters want us to make that it’s such a failure at the border that there has to be some accountability,” Rep Don Bacon of Nebraska, a Biden-district Republican, told The Independent. “It probably won’t go far in the Senate, but the fact is, it is a disaster.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats – and a handful of Republicans – also spoke out against the articles.

“The Mayorkas impeachment lark was the paltry consolation prize that the MAGA wing of the party got, because they’re not able to bring the Biden impeachment to the floor,” Rep Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, told The Independent just minutes before the vote Tuesday night.

The US House first voted on the articles of impeachment against Mr Mayorkas last week. That vote failed 216 to 214 thanks to four Republicans who joined all House Democrats in voting no. One of the decisive votes came from Rep Al Green, a Texas Democrat — he unexpectedly arrived at the US Capitol fresh out of abdominal surgery to cast his “nay” vote.

Mr Buck, Mr Gallagher and Mr McClintock also opposed the articles during the first vote last week. Republican Rep Blake Moore of Utah joined them in a last-minute switch after he was projected to vote in favour as a means to bring impeachment back up in the future. This time, Mr Moore voted in the affirmative.

In the days following the vote, Mr Gallagher announced he would not seek re-election and he questioned why there would be another vote.

Mr Gallagher, one of the four Republicans who voted against impeaching Mr Mayorkas, questioned why Republicans were voting to impeach the secretary again.

“I don't know. They couldn't count votes last week,” He told The Independent.

The House decided to take up impeachment once again this week as House majority leader Steve Scalise returned to Congress after undergoing treatment for cancer.

Republicans hope to use immigration and migrants crossing the US-Mexico border as a cudgel to attack Mr Biden in the 2024 presidential election. Mr Trump has regularly hammered Mr Biden about the influx of migrants.

Earlier this month, Republicans in the House, including all of the leadership, roundly opposed a bipartisan piece of legislation negotiated in the Senate, largely on the grounds that it did not sufficiently secure the border.