Thursday 18 April 2024

Senate Kills Mayorkas Impeachment Articles Without Full Trial

 The Democrat-controlled Senate voted on Wednesday to quash a pair of articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, ending a months-long effort by Republicans to hold the Cabinet official accountable for his handling of the border crisis before a full trial could be held.

House impeachment managers tasked with prosecuting the case did not even get a chance to speak when the proceedings wrapped up in one afternoon. Senators were sworn in as jurors, fought over how to conduct the trial for a couple of hours, and ultimately voted 51-48 to nix one article of impeachment and 51-49 to crush the second.

The impeachment charges accused Mayorkas “willfully and systemically” refusing to comply with federal immigration laws and alleged he “breached the public trust” with false statements and obstructing lawful oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Back in January, Mayorkas claimed he was facing “false accusations” that “do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted.”

One week after a failed attempt to advance the articles, the GOP-led House approved the impeachment resolution by a 214-213 vote in mid-February, making Mayorkas the first Cabinet secretary to be impeached since 1876. Three Republican lawmakers broke ranks and joined Democrats in opposing it.

On Tuesday, the GOP-led House transferred the articles to the Senate and the lead impeachment manager, House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-TN), read aloud the articles in the Senate chamber.

Republicans pushed for a full trial to take place. Were that to happen, a two-thirds vote would have eventually been required for a conviction that would remove Mayorkas from office.

“If the Senate fails to hold a trial, it is an endorsement of [President Joe] Biden’s border catastrophe,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) warned in a post to X before the proceedings began on Wednesday. House Democrats argued “policy disagreements are not a legitimate basis for impeachment.”


During the trial, presided over by Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-WA), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) unveiled a plan allowing for limited debate followed by motions to dismiss, but that strategy was quickly abandoned when Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO) objected.

Schumer then moved to effectively discard each of the articles on the view that they were unconstitutional because they failed to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. He used a point of order, which the Senate glossary says is a “claim made by a senator or representative from the floor that a rule of the Chamber is being violated,” that led to a vote to kill each article of impeachment.

Republicans sought to prolong the proceedings after Schumer made each point of order, offering an assortment of motions that included moving to a closed session and adjourning the court of impeachment for weeks or months, but each one got voted down.

“Our colleagues know that we are obligated to take these proceedings seriously,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said before introducing one of the motions. He added, “This process must not be abused. It must not be short-circuited. History will not judge this moment well.”

After both points of order prevailed in rejecting the articles of impeachment, Schumer teed up a vote to dismiss the trial. It succeeded by a 51-49 vote.

The Senate currently has 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and three independents who caucus with the Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the sole Republican to vote “present” on the point of order that squelched the first article of impeachment, but she voted with her fellow Republicans to preserve the second one.

Whereas McConnell declared after the trial that lawmakers “set a very unfortunate precedent here,” Schumer argued that using impeachment to replace “policy disagreements” would set a “dangerous precedent.” A White House spokesman released a statement that said the Senate “rightly voted down” the impeachment effort.

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