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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Lauren Gambino in Washington

House Republicans present Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate

a line of men in suits and one woman walk across a polished floor
Republican House impeachment managers walk back across the Capitol after delivering the articles of impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

House Republicans on Tuesday formally presented articles of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, to the Senate, part of the party’s attempt to force an election-year showdown with the Biden administration over immigration and border security.

In a ceremonial procession, 11 House Republican impeachment managers carried the two articles of impeachment across the rotunda of the US Capitol, where they informed the Senate they were prepared, for the first time in American history, to prosecute a sitting cabinet secretary for “willful and systemic refusal” to enforce border policies and a “breach of public trust”.

Constitutional scholars, including conservative legal experts, have said the Republicans’ impeachment case is deeply flawed and fails to meet the high bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors” outlined in the constitution.

Democrats, who control the Senate, have made clear their intention to quickly dispense with the articles, arguing that the politically charged proceedings amount to little more than a policy dispute with the administration. A two-thirds majority is needed to win an conviction in the Senate, an impossible threshold if all of the Democrats are united in favor of dismissing the charges against Mayorkas, who retains the support of Joe Biden.

In February, House Republicans bypassed skepticism within their own ranks and unified Democratic opposition to approve by a one-vote margin two articles of impeachment against the secretary, who they have made the face of the Biden administration’s struggle to control record migration at the US-Mexico border.

“Impeachment should never be used to settle a policy disagreement,” the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said on Tuesday, adding: “Talk about awful precedents. This would set an awful precedent for Congress.”

Schumer has said the Senate would convene on Wednesday as a “court of impeachment” and senators will be sworn in as jurors. Patty Murray, the Senate president pro tempore, a Democrat of Washington, presided over the chamber as the House homeland security chair, Mark Green of Tennessee, read the charges aloud.

Schumer said he hoped to deal with the matter as “expeditiously as possible”. But Republicans are pressuring Democrats to hold a full trial.

“We must hold those who engineered this crisis to full account,” the House speaker, Mike Johnson, said in a statement on Monday after signing the articles of impeachment. “Pursuant to the constitution, the House demands a trial.”

Johnson initially delayed the delivery of the articles to focus on funding legislation to avert a government shutdown. Then the transmission was delayed again after Senate Republicans asked for more time to strategize ways to ensure a Senate trial.

In remarks on Tuesday, Senator Mitch McConnell charged that it would be “beneath the Senate’s dignity to shrug off our clear responsibility” and not give thorough consideration to the charges against Mayorkas.

“I will strenuously oppose any effort to table the articles of impeachment and avoid looking the Biden administration’s border crisis squarely in the face,” the Senate minority leader said.

Mayorkas, the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the agency, has forcefully defended himself throughout the process, writing in a January letter to House Republicans: “Your false accusations do not rattle me.”

Hours before the articles were delivered to the Senate, Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill, pressing Congress to provide his agency with more resources to enforce border policies and to pass legislation updating the nation’s outdated immigration laws.

“Our immigration system, however, is fundamentally broken,” he told members of the House homeland security committee on Tuesday morning. “Only Congress can fix it. Congress has not updated our immigration enforcement laws since 1996 – 28 years ago. And, only Congress can deliver on our need for more border patrol agents, asylum officers and immigration judges, facilities and technology.”

Republicans seized on the opportunity to assail Mayorkas, blaming him for the humanitarian crisis at the country’s southern border.

“The open border is the number one issue across America in poll after poll and that is exactly why this committee impeached you,” said Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Georgia congresswoman, one of 11 House Republicans tapped to serve as an impeachment manager.

Several Republican senators have expressed deep skepticism about the House’s impeachment effort, former secretaries of homeland security as well as conservative legal scholars have denounced the Republicans’ case against Mayorkas as deeply flawed and warned that it threatens to undermine one of Congress’s most powerful tools for removing officials guilty of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

A group of Republican senators are contemplating ways to slow-walk the process, suggesting they will deliver lengthy speeches and raise time-consuming procedural inquiries to keep the attention on immigration, one of Biden’s greatest political vulnerabilities.

Americans broadly disapprove of the president’s handling of the border, now a top concern for many voters. Ahead of the 2024 election, Republicans have assailed Biden over the border while Donald Trump, the party’s likely presidential nominee, has again put immigration at the center of his campaign.

An attempt to pass a bipartisan border bill – negotiated by Mayorkas and touted as the most conservative piece of immigration legislation in decades – was derailed by Republicans at the behest of Trump, who did not want Biden to notch a victory on an issue that plays to the former president’s political advantage.

Biden has also asked Congress to approve requests for more border patrol agents and immigration court judges, but Republicans have refused, saying Biden should use his executive authority to stem the flow of migrants. Biden has said he is mulling a far-reaching executive action that would dramatically reduce the number of asylum seekers who can cross the southern border.

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