The Impeachment Train Leaves The Station

[ Posted Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 – 16:35 UTC ]

House Republicans moved a big step closer to one of their goals today, as they voted on articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Two articles of impeachment passed the relevant House committee on a party-line vote, and the full House could vote on the matter within days. This will fulfill a longstanding desire of the House Republicans to impeach somebody (anybody!) in Joe Biden's administration, and can be seen as a trial run for their real goal of impeaching Biden himself. This is all a purely political exercise, but that's certainly not going to stop them. The Republicans simply have no grounds for impeaching either one, but why let a little thing called the U.S. Constitution get in the way of their fun?

The Constitution sets a pretty high bar for impeachment. A federal officer must be shown to have committed: "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Neither Mayorkas nor Biden has committed anything even remotely fitting that description. Republicans haven't even bothered to accuse Mayorkas with any such thing, they are going to impeach him instead for the high crime of not acting as if he were in a Republican administration. Which is not at all what the Founders intended, of course.

If the House votes to impeach Mayorkas, he will be only the second cabinet member ever impeached, and the first one in 148 years. There's a reason why this is so rare, and the reason is that different opinions about political policy have simply never been seen as impeachable offenses. If this had been true, we'd have had plenty of impeachments over the years -- they'd probably be as regular as clockwork. Every time the House was in the hands of the party opposing the president, impeachments would fly.

That is what the Republicans are trying to usher in, plain and simple. That is the impeachment train that is now leaving the station. As far as they are concerned, Democrats had the effrontery to impeach Donald Trump twice, so they are now in the mood for some payback. They don't care that Trump had committed rather blatantly impeachable offenses, they saw it the same way he did, as some gigantic "witch hunt" designed only to tear their Dear Leader down. So now, in a fit of pique, they are going to vote on a tit-for-tat impeachment of Mayorkas (with, they sincerely hope, a Biden impeachment to soon follow).

The New York Times has a good rundown of why the Republican logic is so laughably flawed. They begin with an overview:

Republicans have moved forward with the process even though constitutional scholars, past secretaries of homeland security and even some former legal advisers to former President Donald J. Trump have noted that nothing Mr. Mayorkas is accused of rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, the standard for impeachment laid out in the Constitution.

The G.O.P. argues that the secretary's failure to uphold certain aspects of immigration law is itself a constitutional crime. But in the United States, the president and his administration have wide latitude to control the border, and Mr. Mayorkas has not exceeded those authorities.

The article then takes a detailed look at what the Republicans are claiming. The upshot is that there is an immigration law on the books that directs the government to detain anyone who is deportable. However, Congress has never devoted anywhere near the resources that following the letter of this law would require, and so with a limited budget the head of Homeland Security must prioritize who gets detained and who is not. This is necessary until Congress provides enough funding to massively increase the number of immigration judges (to process all the cases in a timely manner) and detention facilities to hold everyone. As one observer succinctly put it:

"Congress loves passing laws that are impossible to execute," said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council, adding that enforcing detention mandates is often "a question of resources."

The article also points out a salient fact that the House Republicans are completely ignoring: "Even the Trump administration released migrants into the country, because the maximum detention capacity -- about 55,000 in 2019 -- was not enough to accommodate the number of arrivals seeking entry."

Got that? Even Trump did it. This undermines their legal logic in a big way, but that doesn't bother them. There are other claims in the articles of impeachment and they all boil down to the same thing -- discretion must be used in prioritizing things because the conservative dream of completely closing the border would only be possible if Congress passed a massive amount of money to do so -- which it hasn't.

This brings up a jarring disconnect happening in Congress right now. Over in the Senate, they are struggling to come up with the final text for a border security and immigration bill -- one that mainly addresses Republican concerns. Conservatives have been pushing hard for these changes in the laws for years now, and they appear to be closer than they ever have been -- and even President Biden is largely on board with the effort. But Donald Trump wants to rant and rave about the issue during his campaign, so he's pressuring Republicans not to support the deal. This is a stunning amount of hypocrisy, since it equates to: "There's a massive and immediate crisis on the border, but we are going to wait another year to do anything about it in the hopes of winning the upcoming elections."

The House speaker has declared the bill dead on arrival in his chamber already. So the House Republicans will be impeaching the Homeland Security secretary for not following the letter of the law (even though doing so is so impossible that even the Trump administration couldn't manage the feat), while refusing to pass Republican-written changes in the laws to improve the situation.

That more than anything else strips bare the Republican "logic" of impeaching Secretary Mayorkas. They want him removed because he is not acting like a Republican cabinet member would, even though the last Republican cabinet member in the position couldn't meet their impossibly-high standard either. And they refuse to make any improvements to the laws.

This is an entirely pointless political bit of Kabuki. The Senate is not going to convict Mayorkas, although hopefully it will expose (in the trial) how baseless and idiotic the impeachment charges against him truly are. The Republicans will wind up looking completely incapable of governing (once again), which could impact their own re-election chances. This impeachment, and the Biden one if it happens too, may actually be a big factor in handing control of the House back to the Democrats in November, in fact.

But they don't care. Their impeachment train is leaving the station and they've all gleefully climbed on board. They're about to ride their impeachment train right over a cliff, while the American public sees their ineptitude and pettiness on full display.

All aboard!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


6 Comments on “The Impeachment Train Leaves The Station”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    How about incompetence or stupidity?

    Of course, if those were to be judged as meeting constitutional criteria, we'd have to come up with a whole new system for selecting leaders.

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Will the general public care or notice at all that Congress has impeached Mayorkas? Will they even have any understanding of what has happened? I say no and no again.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    impeach hunter biden

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:


    Will the general public care or notice at all that Congress has impeached Mayorkas?

    Somebody got impeached. Fox News talking heads will take it from there.

    Will they even have any understanding of what has happened?


    I say no and no again.

    Fox News says "impeached" again and again and again.

  5. [5] 
    Kick wrote:


    impeach hunter biden

    Impeach Major and Commander... oh, wait.

    Impeach Willow!

  6. [6] 
    Kick wrote:

    Uh, oh. Trump's Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weiselberg's testimony getting impeached for being false in Trump's civil fraud trial.

    Poor Donald... that's perjury. :)

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