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Republicans can’t force a Mayorkas impeachment trial, but they’ll try to make it painful for Democrats


WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats hope to quickly dismiss the House’s articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week and move on to other matters.

But Senate Republicans, demanding a full impeachment trial or the creation of a special impeachment committee, want to make the coming days as politically painful as possible for Mayorkas and his Democratic allies.

A band of conservatives, led by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, plan to throw up procedural roadblocks, try to delay the issue and put the spotlight on Democrats’ refusal to conduct a trial and hold Mayorkas accountable for what they view as his failure to secure the southern border.

“Senator Schumer is trying to ignore articles of impeachment from the House, tabling them without a vote for the first time in American history,” Lee, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement to NBC News. “But the Constitution requires that we begin trial proceedings, and I will be fighting on the Senate floor to ensure that both Secretary Mayorkas and the entire Congress remain accountable for the current invasion of America’s southern border.”

As lawmakers return from a two-week spring recess, these conservatives say they will take to the Senate floor Monday evening and deliver a series of speeches calling for a full-fledged trial, like the two that then-President Donald Trump faced in 2019 and 2021. 

That will be followed by a news conference Tuesday afternoon where Republicans plan to hammer home their message. Lee, who serves on the GOP leadership team, is working with fellow Steering Committee members, including GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Marco Rubio of Florida and Eric Schmitt of Missouri. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the head of the GOP campaign arm, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, also are involved.  

Democrats, who control the upper chamber, have called the House’s vote to impeach President Joe Biden’s top border security official a “sham,” arguing that Republicans failed to demonstrate Mayorkas committed any impeachable offense and that Republicans are engaging in a politically motivated exercise ahead of the presidential election.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is expected to move to dismiss or table the House’s two impeachment articles soon after House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., transmits them to the upper chamber on Wednesday. To do that would require just a simple majority vote, and Democrats hold a 51-49 advantage over Republicans. A handful of GOP senators have suggested the Mayorkas impeachment articles are meritless as well.

But Lee and his allies plan to deploy stall tactics by raising multiple points of order on the floor, GOP aides said. While the points of order won’t change the outcome of the Mayorkas impeachment — Democrats have the votes to table the issue and move on to other business — Republicans could use these tactics to force Democrats facing tough re-election bids to take difficult votes.

For example, one point of order could state that a quick dismissal of the impeachment articles violates the Senate’s constitutional duty to hold a trial, the aides said. Other points of order could argue that a speedy dismissal violates Senate rules requiring that counsel for each party should have an opportunity to be heard by senators and that witnesses should be sworn in.

Republicans say they want votes on up to 15 points of order, to mirror the number of amendment votes that Democrats forced to the organizing resolution of Trump’s first impeachment trial. However, being in the minority, Republicans could accept a much lower number, such as votes on as few as two to three points of order in a compromise with Schumer, GOP sources said.

Without a bipartisan deal, Republicans could try to impede any progress in the Senate, objecting to mundane business on the floor. They could even object to adjourning the Senate at the end of the week, threatening to keep the chamber in session over the weekend.

“I think if we’re in a situation where it’s on the floor, it’s going to be pretty unpredictable,” said a senior GOP aide.

On Feb. 13, the GOP-controlled House impeached Mayorkas over his handling of the border by just a single vote, 214-213; three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no. Mayorkas became just the second Cabinet secretary in history to be impeached — and the first in nearly 150 years.

If senators can reach a bipartisan deal, things should move relatively quickly. A day after Johnson’s 11 impeachment managers deliver the impeachment articles, Schumer said all 100 senators on Thursday will be sworn in as jurors for what’s expected to be a trial that will be done in record speed. Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray, D-Wash., will preside.

Democrats’ presence this week is “essential” as the Senate takes up impeachment, Schumer wrote to members of his party.

On Monday, the White House re-circulated statements from congressional Republicans and constitutional scholars, including Jonathan Turley who served as a Republican witness in Trump’s first impeachment inquiry, calling the Mayorkas impeachment without merit and unconstitutional.

“This effort is a complete waste of time that constitutional and legal experts have said is ‘unconstitutional’ and that even Senate Republicans have made clear they don’t want to focus on,” Ian Sams, White House spokesman for oversight and investigations, wrote in an impeachment memo.

“But the worst part is that extreme Republicans have promoted this silly, baseless stunt at the same time they have killed an actual bipartisan border security bill that would have addressed the challenges at the border and delivered needed resources to DHS,” Sams continued. “It is cynical and outrageous.”

One of the comments highlighted by the White House came from Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who dismissed the Mayorkas impeachment as “obviously dead on arrival” and “the worst, dumbest exercise and use of time.”


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