Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaks during a news conference while visiting the U.S.-Mexico border, Jan. 8, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans voted early Wednesday to bring Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas one step closer to a historic impeachment over his handling of the country’s southern border.

After more than 10 hours of deliberation, the GOP-led House Homeland Security Committee decided in an 18-15 party-line vote to advance the impeachment articles against Mayorkas. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, said in a statement that Mayorkas “has willfully and systemically refused to comply with the laws enacted by Congress, and he has breached the public trust.”

“His actions created this unprecedented crisis, turning every state into a border state.” Green added. “I am proud of the Committee for advancing these historic articles. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing, put aside the politics, and agree that before we can fix Secretary Mayorkas’ mess, Congress must finally hold this man accountable.”

The issue will now go to the full House of Representatives for a floor vote, despite Democrats saying there’s no proof of high crimes and misdemeanors — the usual bar for impeachment. If the vote to impeach passes in the House, it forces a Senate trial.

If Mayorkas were to be impeached, it would be first of a Cabinet member in nearly 150 years. Only one Cabinet secretary has ever been impeached by the House: William Belknap, who resigned as then-President Ulysses Grant’s secretary of war shortly before the House voted against him in 1876.

Republicans say Mayorkas has failed to enforce the law at the southern border, allowing a flood of migrants into the United States from Mexico. During opening remarks of the hearing on Capital Hill on Tuesday evening, Green said the secretary “put his political preference above the law” and that his “actions have forced our hand.”

“We cannot allow this border crisis to continue,” he added. “We cannot allow fentanyl to flood our border.”

Green referenced the two articles of impeachment the conference released accusing Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust.”

Green called on the committee to push to use Congress’ power of impeachment to “remove those unworthy from office.”

“Secretary Mayorkas is the very type of public official the framers feared as someone who would cast aside the laws by a coequal branch of government, replacing those with his own preferences, hurting his fellow Americans in the process,” Green said.

Ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said “Republicans have failed to make a constitutionally viable case to impeach Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a dedicated public servant.” He called the hearing a “terrible day” for the committee.

“The sham impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is a baseless political stunt by extreme MAGA Republicans,” Thompson said.

Border security is a top issue in the 2024 elections with all eyes on how the Biden administration handles the surge of migrants crossing the border.

Senate negotiators are working — with Mayorkas’ help — on a bipartisan border security package with a deal in sight. However several in the GOP are threatening to derail the efforts. Former President Donald Trump is throwing cold water on the package, saying Monday that “a border bill is not necessary;” House Speaker Mike Johnson has said the bill appears “dead on arrival” in the House.

New York Democrat Rep. Dan Goldman contended that Republicans are doing Trump’s bidding by undermining a bipartisan negotiations in the Senate with impeachment in the House.

‘The irony of the fact that Secretary Mayorkas has spent the two months plus with a bipartisan group of senators working on legislation that would address the problems at the border should not be lost on anyone,” Goldman said. “You are sitting here right now trying to impeach a secretary of Homeland Security for neglecting his duties literally while he is trying to perform his duties and negotiate legislation.”

“The hypocrisy is the least of it. Your attack on the rule of law and our democracy is the worst of it. You better be careful about the bed that you make,” Goldman warned

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the lower chamber, justified the impeachment effort by questioning Mayorkas’ honesty.

“Congress has responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable when they failed to uphold their oath of office abuse their authority, and or are dishonest with the American people,” she said.

Mayorkas called the impeachment proceedings against him “baseless” and the accusations made against him by the Homeland Security Committee “false” in a nearly seven-page letter to the committee.

Democrats have pushed back against the effort to impeach Mayorkas — with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries slamming the effort.

“Republicans have clearly turned their ever-shrinking majority over to the extremists,” Jeffries said Monday. “And this sham impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is just another sad example.”

“All they are endeavoring to do with respect to this sham impeachment is to run away from their do-nothing, extreme record, and try to distract the American people with this political stunt,” Jeffries said.

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee put out a report Monday that contends that House Republicans are abusing their power with the move to impeach. Democrats argue that Mayorkas is upholding the law while Republicans attempt to “sabotage” the administration’s efforts to secure the border — all to help Trump, the Republican front-runner, win the presidency this fall.

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