Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is facing potential impeachment by the Republican-led House. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Democrats Dismiss Mayorkas Impeachment Effort: ‘It’s A Distraction’

Republicans say the Homeland Security secretary deserves to be removed. Democrats say the GOP is just playing politics.

Democrats hoping for legislation to finally address the situation at the border are frustrated by House Republicans’ effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, warning that it’s at best a distraction, at worst imperiling chances of an actual deal.

The House Homeland Security Committee gathered Thursday for a second and final hearing on whether to impeach Mayorkas. Impeachment of a cabinet member is extremely uncommon. Only one presidential cabinet member has been impeached, and that was nearly 150 years ago: William Belknap, secretary of war under Ulysses S. Grant. But Republicans argue Mayorkas’ handling of the border warrants his removal — even as he plays a key role in negotiating what some lawmakers hope will be a major deal on immigration.

“The question is for Republicans, they gotta figure out is Secretary Mayorkas who they’re working in good faith with in these negotiations, or is he someone they’re going to impeach?” Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, said Thursday.

“Well, it certainly doesn’t help,” Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Colorado Democrat, said of the impeachment effort. “It’s a distraction.”

Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents a border district in Texas, said removing Mayorkas would only make a difficult situation worse.

“It really is crazy,” she told NOTUS last week. “I mean that’s the only word I can think of. … To remove the homeland security secretary, you really only cause more chaos and would increase the challenge significantly, which tells me that these guys do not want to solve the issue.”

In the hearing, Democrats repeatedly questioned the legal basis for impeaching Mayorkas and pointed out that removing him will not stop the Biden administration’s policies.

But Republicans argued that impeachment is necessary, decrying the situation at the border as a deeply harmful human rights and national security problem that Mayorkas allowed to happen.

“The timing is unfortunate, I guess you could say, but we need border security and we also need to hold him accountable,” Texas Republican Rep. August Pfluger said.

Fellow Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents the largest portion of the border and has been frequently cited for his involvement in the Senate negotiations, dismissed the idea that impeachment and a border deal were in conflict.

“The Senate is doing their deal, the House is a completely different place,” he said.

Members of both parties sparred during the hearing over which side was failing to resolve the border problem. Republicans noted they have a bill — H.R. 2, which stands no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate — while Democrats argued Republicans have refused to support their own efforts.

The hearing was set to be the last before the House Homeland Committee holds a vote on an impeachment resolution on Jan. 31. Next, it would go to the full House for a vote.

But even if it’s approved, the Senate is unlikely to convict Mayorkas. Sen. Ted Cruz told NOTUS that Democrats were the ones playing politics with the impeachment, not Republicans.

“They’re willing to overlook enormous human suffering in order to gain what they see as a partisan political advantage,” Cruz said.

Casey Murray and Ryan Hernández are NOTUS reporters and Allbritton Journalism Institute fellows.