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  • Writer's pictureGary Kelce | Aificial Politics

Senate rejects Mayorkas impeachment charges at trial, ending GOP bid to oust him

 

Washington — The Senate convened Wednesday for the impeachment trial of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and quickly dispensed with one of the charges he faces.


Senators were sworn in as jurors in the afternoon, and tasked with determining whether Mayorkas should be removed from office on charges the House passed in February. Heading into the trial, Mayorkas was all but certain to be acquitted, given the Democratic majority in the chamber.  


After the senators were sworn in, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to move forward with an agreement to allow for a period of debate to "accommodate the wishes" of his GOP colleagues, who have pushed for a full trial. But when he brought the motion up under unanimous consent, Sen. Eric Schmitt, a Missouri Republican, objected. 


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

"I will not assist Sen. Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze," Schmitt said. 


Schumer then asked senators to declare that the charge in the first impeachment article did not rise to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor, the threshold for impeachment under the Constitution. After several GOP attempts to delay, senators ultimately voted 51-48 along party lines in favor of Schumer's point of order. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, voted present. 


Senators swear an oath to act as impartial jurors before the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the Senate on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.SENATE TV

Before the vote, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, argued that Schumer presented no evidence of the claim and motioned to move the impeachment trial into a closed session for debate. His motion fell short. 


"The majority leader's position is asking members of this Senate to vote on political expediency to avoid listening to arguments," Cruz said. "The only rational way to resolve this question is actually to debate it, to consider the Constitution and consider the law."


Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat and the president pro tempore of the chamber, is presiding over the trial. Murray administered an oath to senators to mark the official start of the trial Wednesday afternoon. Senators then took turns signing an oath book, an indication of the gravity of the proceedings.


The articles of impeachment


The House voted to impeach Mayorkas in February, accusing him of refusing to enforce immigration laws and a "breach of public trust." He is just the second Cabinet official in U.S. history to be impeached. House Republicans transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate one day before the trial, and some of the House impeachment managers, including Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Clay Higgins of Louisiana, observed Wednesday's proceedings from the floor. 


Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

In the first article, House Republicans charged Mayorkas with "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law," arguing he has "repeatedly violated laws enacted by Congress regarding immigration and border security." It accuses Mayorkas of overstepping his authority and disregarding federal laws by releasing many asylum seekers into the U.S. and allowing more than 1 million to enter under an authority known as parole.


The second article accused Mayorkas of "knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people and avoiding lawful oversight in order to obscure the devastating consequences of his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and carry out his statutory duties."


DHS denounced the effort, calling it "baseless," while saying that House Republicans "continue to ignore the facts and undermine the Constitution." 


Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

"Congressional Republicans should stop wasting time with unfounded attacks, and instead do their job by passing bipartisan legislation to properly fund the Department's vital national security missions and finally fix our broken immigration system," a DHS spokesperson said in a statement. 


Under the Constitution, the basis for impeachment is "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Constitutional scholars argue that the allegations against Mayorkas do not rise to that level. 

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