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Republicans impeach Alejandro Mayorkas over the border after failing to last week

The Senate will need to address the homeland security secretary's impeachment when it returns on Feb. 26, but the Democratic-controlled chamber won't convict him.
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WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday night muscled through a vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border, exactly one week after their first attempt to impeach him collapsed spectacularly on the floor.

The vote was 214-213, with three Republicans again opposing the impeachment. Mayorkas is just the second Cabinet secretary in U.S. history to be impeached — and the first in nearly 150 years.

"From his first day in office, Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and consistently refused to comply with federal immigration laws, fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history," Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said in a statement. "He has undermined public trust through multiple false statements to Congress, obstructed lawful oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, and violated his oath of office."

"Since this Secretary refuses to do the job that the Senate confirmed him to do, the House must act," Johnson continued.

President Joe Biden blasted House Republicans immediately after the vote.

"History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games," he said in part of his statement.

The matter now heads to the Senate, which almost certainly will vote to acquit Mayorkas given that two-thirds, or 67 senators, would be needed to convict and remove the secretary, whose Democratic Party controls the upper chamber.

While all but a few House Republicans united behind the impeachment push, several GOP senators have poured cold water on the effort. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a Trump ally, called it “obviously dead on arrival” and “the worst, dumbest exercise and use of time.”

Once the House impeachment managers transmit the articles to the Senate, it would be required to hold an impeachment trial. It’s expected that the articles would be quickly dismissed or that the trial will be sent to a special committee that would hear the evidence from the impeachment managers and report it to the full Senate.

The Senate is out of session, and the soonest it would take up the matter of impeachment would be after lawmakers return to Washington on Feb. 26.

In a scathing statement reacting to the House vote, Homeland Security Department spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg pointed out that Mayorkas had been involved in bipartisan Senate negotiations to shore up the southern border.

“House Republicans will be remembered by history for trampling on the Constitution for political gain rather than working to solve the serious challenges at our border. While Secretary Mayorkas was helping a group of Republican and Democratic Senators develop bipartisan solutions to strengthen border security and get needed resources for enforcement, House Republicans have wasted months with this baseless, unconstitutional impeachment," Ehrenberg said.

“Without a shred of evidence or legitimate Constitutional grounds, and despite bipartisan opposition, House Republicans have falsely smeared a dedicated public servant who has spent more than 20 years enforcing our laws and serving our country," she continued. "Secretary Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security will continue working every day to keep Americans safe.”

Just as in other votes, House Republicans had little room for error Tuesday given their razor-thin majority over the Democrats. Last week, a trio of impeachment-wary Republicans — Ken Buck of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin — teamed up with all Democrats to force a 215-215 tie, tanking that impeachment vote and delivering an embarrassing blow to Johnson, the speaker, and his leadership team.

Those same three Republicans also voted no Tuesday night. As he faced blowback from his party, Gallagher said over the weekend that he will not seek re-election this fall.

But Tuesday brought a different outcome. With Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., returning to Washington this week after having undergone treatment for blood cancer, Republicans were back at full strength. Still, there were concerns. Whip teams in both parties fretted about unexpected absences, especially with a major snowstorm bearing down on the Northeast making travel to Washington difficult.

"It's one of those days where you are tracking every flight," Scalise, who controls the floor schedule, said moments before the vote.

The GOP also wanted to regroup and push forward now because of the potential impact of Tuesday’s special election to replace George Santos, the expelled New York Republican congressman.

If the Democratic nominee, former Rep. Tom Suozzi, defeats Republican Mazi Pilip and can be sworn in quickly, Republicans could lose only two GOP lawmakers on any vote, and the Mayorkas impeachment would most likely be dead.

Campaigning for Pilip on Long Island on Monday, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., confidently predicted the votes were there for impeachment.

“Yes, we will pass the impeachment of Mayorkas,” Stefanik told NBC News.

The vote came in the wake of the collapse of a rare bipartisan Senate deal that would have imposed tougher asylum and border policies. But Johnson and former President Donald Trump expressed vocal opposition to the agreement, saying it did not go far enough to stop illegal immigration, and Senate GOP leaders who had been involved in the talks abandoned it soon after, punting any potential border legislation until well after the November election.

In an appearance Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Mayorkas dismissed the impeachment articles as "baseless allegations" and rejected the idea that he bears responsibility for the overwhelming number of migrants illegally crossing the southern border.

“It certainly is a crisis, and we don’t bear responsibility for a broken system, and we’re doing a tremendous amount within that broken system,” he said. “But fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix it.”

The GOP’s impeachment resolution, originally authored by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, cleared the Homeland Security Committee late last month. It spells out two articles.

The first accuses Mayorkas of “willfully and systemically” refusing to comply with federal immigration laws. As a result, it says, “millions of aliens have illegally entered the United States on an annual basis with many unlawfully remaining in the United States.”

The second article says Mayorkas “breached the public trust” by making false statements to Congress and knowingly obstructing congressional oversight of the Homeland Security Department.

But Mayorkas allies also have highlighted remarks by key conservative figures blasting the impeachment effort.

Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar who was a GOP witness in Trump’s first impeachment, said there is “no current evidence" that Mayorkas "is corrupt or committed an impeachable offense," arguing that "the case has not been made to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas.”

And Alan Dershowitz, who was Trump’s defense attorney during his first impeachment, declared that Mayorkas “has not committed bribery, treason, or high crimes and misdemeanors” and that Republicans are impeaching “based on partisan considerations.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wrote in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “Don’t Impeach Alejandro Mayorkas": “As homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush — and as a former federal judge, U.S. attorney and assistant attorney general — I can say with confidence that, for all the investigating that the House Committee on Homeland Security has done, they have failed to put forth evidence that meets the bar.”

Along with the impeachment vote, the House approved 11 GOP impeachment managers who will prosecute the case against Mayorkas in the Senate.

They are: Greene, the author of the impeachment resolution; Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green of Tennessee; Michael McCaul of Texas, a former chair of the Homeland Security panel; August Pfluger of Texas; Michael Guest of Mississippi; Andrew Garbarino of New York; Laurel Lee of Florida; and four members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus: Andy Biggs of Arizona, Clay Higgins of Louisiana, Ben Cline of Virginia and Harriet Hageman of Wyoming.