WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives delivered a blow to Republican Speaker Mike Johnson when it voted on Tuesday against impeaching Democratic President Joe Biden’s top border official.
In a 214-216 vote, the Republican-controlled House blocked a committee’s impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Four Republicans bucked their leadership, joining Democrats in opposing the charges against Mr. Mayorkas, a Cabinet member.
Partisan fighting over immigration has escalated ahead of the presidential election in November. After the failed impeachment vote, Republicans said they would try again.
“House Republicans fully intend to bring Articles of Impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas back to the floor when we have the votes for passage,” Raj Shah, Mr. Johnson’s spokesman, said in a tweet on X.
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg said in a statement that House Republicans should “abandon these political games” and instead “get DHS the (border) enforcement resources we need.”
Nevertheless, far-right House Republican rhetoric remained fiery. “Everyone who voted against impeaching Mayorkas owns everything that happens as a result of our wide open border – every rape, every murder, every drug overdose, everything,” said Representative Lauren Boebert in a social media post.
Republican Representative Mike Simpson predicted that his leaders would arrange a second vote on Mr. Mayorkas once House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who has been receiving treatment for cancer, returns from sick leave.
Mr. Scalise’s office did not say when he plans to return to work.
Several Republicans, including Mr. Simpson, said the failed vote would have no bearing on their party’s investigations of Democratic President Joe Biden.
The senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security, Representative Bennie Thompson, said in an interview that the vote was indicative of Republicans “not understanding the gravity of what impeachment is all about.”
The House already was investigating whether any of Mr. Biden’s past behavior before moving into the White House might have constituted a high crime or misdemeanor. But even some Republicans have said they do not see such evidence yet.
Democrats view the effort as retribution for having twice led impeachments against Republican former President Donald Trump.
Earlier, Senate Republicans appeared to have killed a bipartisan border security deal.
The measure was an effort to solve the very border security problems that they wanted Secretary Mayorkas to stop, including record numbers of people entering the country illegally at the southern border with Mexico.
Mr. Biden, speaking at the White House, laid the blame on Mr. Trump, who is expected to face the president in a rematch in the November presidential election. “All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? The simple reason: Donald Trump. Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically,” Mr. Biden said.
Republican senators have lined up against the $118 billion measure, which includes new military aid for Ukraine and Israel, prompting Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to conclude that the effort would fail.
Some Republicans said the bill failed to effectively deal with the heavy flow of migrants at the border, with criticism beginning almost immediately after the complex bill was unveiled.
“It looks to me, and to most of our members, as if we have no real chance here to make a law,” Mr. McConnell said at a news conference.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to push ahead with plans for a Wednesday procedural vote on the bill, knowing it was unlikely to succeed.
Polls show that immigration has become a top concern for voters as Mr. Trump prepares for a likely November rematch with Mr. Biden.
Mr. Johnson has said that if the Senate passes it, the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.
The House Homeland Security Committee last week approved two articles of impeachment against Mr. Mayorkas, a near-unprecedented step to take against a member of a president’s cabinet over a policy dispute.
That had happened only once before in US history, in 1876 when a war secretary was impeached on charges of criminal misconduct.
Republican Representative Tom McClintock said the investigation into Secretary Mayorkas had failed to “identify an impeachable crime,” and fellow Republican Representative Ken Buck made a similar statement on Monday.
While Mr. McClintock during debate said, “Secretary Mayorkas is guilty of maladministration of our immigration laws on a cosmic scale,” he added that the Constitution does not intend impeachment to be used as a weapon in “political disputes.”
House Republicans allege that Mr. Mayorkas was intentionally lax in securing the long border with Mexico and violated the public trust by making false statements to Congress.
Around 2 million migrants were arrested by the US Border Patrol at the US-Mexico border in fiscal 2023.
Mr. Mayorkas has denied any wrongdoing and has defended his tenure.
Democratic Representative Richard Neal said it was a mistake for Johnson to bring the Mayorkas impeachment to the floor without first nailing down enough votes, especially given all of the Republican party’s troubles with revolts over the past year.
“When there’s a stop sign, they don’t stop,” Neal said.
Democrats and some legal experts have said the impeachment charges fell well short of evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” under the Constitution’s impeachment requirement. — Reuters