House Delays Sending Mayorkas Impeachment to Senate

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (AP Photo/Santiago Billy, File)

WASHINGTON (CQ-Roll Call/TNS) — The House will delay delivery of the impeachment articles for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas until next week, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s office said, as Senate Republicans try to counter Democratic efforts to quickly dismiss the case.

At a news conference Tuesday, a group of Senate Republicans said they secured the delay as part of their fight to have the Senate hold a full trial. A spokesman for Johnson confirmed the delay in a statement.

“To ensure the Senate has adequate time to perform its constitutional duty, the House will transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week. There is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to abdicate its responsibility to hold an impeachment trial,” the spokesman, Taylor Haulsee, said.

Johnson originally planned to send the articles from the House to the Senate on Wednesday. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., had announced plans that the Senate would act on them Thursday, the day of the week senators are often poised to head home for the weekend.

“I’m very grateful to Speaker Johnson for his bold willingness to delay this,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told reporters. “We don’t want this to come over on the eve of the moment when members might be operating under the influence of jet fume intoxication.”

The two impeachment articles are now the subject of a procedural fight in the Senate, as Democrats have said they plan to toss the case and Republicans have threatened retaliation for what they dubbed a “nuclear option.”

Mayorkas, a central figure in the dispute between Republicans and the Biden administration on U.S.-Mexico border security policy, is the first Cabinet secretary in more than a century to face impeachment. The House passed two impeachment articles in February, alleging “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust” on a 214-213 vote.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Schumer called the impeachment “absurd” but declined to detail how he would approach handling the articles. Staff for Schumer had said the chamber would swear the senators in as jurors the day after receiving the articles.

“We’re going to try and resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Impeachment should never be used because you are upset about policy differences,” Schumer said.

Responding to questions about the possible delay, Schumer’s office released a statement that his plans had not changed.

“We’re ready to go whenever they are. We are sticking with our plan. We’re going to move this as expeditiously as possible,” Schumer’s statement said.

Republicans took to the Senate floor late Monday to preview their opposition to a quick dismissal of the impeachment articles. But after the GOP lunch on Tuesday, word of a possible delay started to percolate.

Responding to questions about whether the House should wait to present the impeachment articles, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he had “no advice” on how Johnson should handle the proceeding. But he noted that the Senate has a packed calendar in the next few weeks, including reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“We have our hands full here,” McConnell said.

During a later, separate news conference, a half-dozen Senate Republicans framed Schumer’s anticipated move as a “nuclear option” akin to a 2013 Senate vote to reduce the threshold to advance executive nominees.

Lee and others said dismissing the impeachment articles now would establish a precedent that no executive branch official, including future presidents, would face an impeachment trial from a Senate of the same party.

“What they’re nuking here is not just a Senate precedent or Senate rule,” Lee said. “They are nuking a provision of the Constitution.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also threatened broader consequences for Senate Democrats if they proceed without a trial: grinding the Senate floor to a halt by withholding the unanimous consent the chamber usually relies on for its day-to-day work.

Sen. Johnson acknowledged that that would take buy-in from a majority of his caucus but said he would push for it. “We believe this is important enough that option should be on the table,” Johnson said. “It should not be easy for him going forward.”

The delay allows Republicans to work for more support in their effort to force a trial, including putting pressure on Democrats in close elections.

“The benefit of the delay is, duh, we can talk about this issue,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said.

Sen Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he may be open to voting against a motion to table the impeachment articles because he wants to see a presentation of what the House passed. If it’s political, Tester said, it would be out.

“I want to look at the impeachment documents first,” Tester said. “If there is some policy stuff in there, we’ll take a look at that.”

Some Republicans, particularly Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, have expressed skepticism about the merits of the underlying impeachment. Romney told reporters Tuesday that he may not vote for the motion to dismiss but is looking for a way to vote that expresses his view that “Mayorkas has done a terrible job, but he’s following the direction of the president and has not met the constitutional test of a high criminal crime or misdemeanor.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said Republicans “are pretty much along for the ride” and likely will not be able to derail the impeachment process. Republicans may be able to offer a few points of order on each of the two articles of impeachment, Braun said, and there may be a negotiation between the two sides of how many votes there will be.

“I do think they’re going to lose some political face, because it looks like they’re trying to hide a discussion, which is on their No. 1 big issue to defend: open borders,” Braun said.

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