MAGA-wing Republicans and House Democrats agree on one thing: It’s the far-right wing of the GOP conference that would deserve the credit for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s impeachment.
Resolutions to impeach Mayorkas — eventually reaching five in total— were introduced in the first days after the GOP took the House, following calls that began even before the 2022 midterms.
But interest in carrying out the impeachment ebbed and flowed, both due to reticence from Republican colleagues and a spotlight on efforts to impeach President Biden.
It was the so-called MAGA wing that kept beating the drum on Mayorkas’s impeachment, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in particular who helped push it over the edge.
“Bitch, bully, and bulldoze,” Greene said of her strategy that pushed the issue forward.
“I told leadership I would do it every week. I said I’ll put it on the floor every week, force Congress to vote on it until we do something about this, until he’s impeached,” she said, adding that she was promised the Homeland Security Committee would move on the articles in January.
The panel beat the deadline by one day.
But where Greene might take credit, Democrats have made clear they have her to blame.
Their one visual aid at a Monday press conference denouncing the impeachment effort was a selfie Greene took with newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).
“This is a political stunt and a hit job ordered by two people: Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene. The House Republicans have clearly turned their ever-shrinking majority over to the extremists. And this sham impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is just another sad example,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said at the press conference.
But Republicans are split over how much the hard-line Freedom Caucus and its allies advanced the issue.
“A lot of the conference has wanted to do that for a long time, and I know several people dropped articles of impeachment,” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) said. “If it actually happens on the floor, it’s gonna be, you know, a conference effort.”
“At the end of the day, I don’t really care who gets the, quote unquote, credit. I just want to see this individual held responsible for his complete dereliction of duty,” Crane said.
Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took baby steps with a Mayorkas impeachment.
While he called on the secretary to resign from his office before he even officially took the gavel, he did not rush to use the nuclear option.
McCarthy largely left the cause to be handled through an investigation led by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.), a strategy that came as some stressed the need to strategically prepare for an impeachment.
“You’ve got to build a case. You need the facts, evidence before you indict,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in 2022.
But McCarthy’s resistance to fully commit to impeaching Mayorkas prompted pushback from the hard-line conservatives, who threatened his path to the Speakership when Republicans took over the House — and who later moved to boot him from the Speaker’s chair.
As a separate impeachment probe into President Biden ramped up, it was not clear whether Republicans who long wanted to impeach the Homeland Security secretary would get enough support from their colleagues or Republican leadership. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told reporters last summer that some of his colleagues had gotten “hung up on the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors” with respect to Mayorkas, who is executing the Biden administration’s policy.
That swiftly changed, though, with a change in Speakership, and Greene’s move to force votes on the House floor for articles of impeachment.
“Speaker Johnson initiated the impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas. The previous Speaker should have done it a year ago,” said Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.), one of the eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy last year.
The unarticulated implication is that those who ousted the previous Speaker may deserve some credit for the articles against Mayorkas moving forward.
“We had two years of evidence. We didn’t need an investigation to do this,” Good said.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus member who also introduced an early resolution to impeach Mayorkas, said Greene’s privileged motion likewise prompted action from Johnson that may otherwise have been avoided.
“That accelerated things because it demanded a response. And so I think that was important,” he said.
“It actually called leadership into action, and leadership actually had to do something. And I think that made a big impact on where we ended up.”
But some Republicans say Mayorkas’s impeachment was just a matter of time, even as they credited Greene with lighting the fire that accelerated the vote.
“No, I think this was coming. … We did the five phases to get to the bottom of it,” Green said of his own committee’s work, including the investigative phases he announced over the summer.
“There are lots of people who you know, have contributed along the way, so I mean, clearly her motion on the floor got the Democrats to refer it to our committee. So that was helpful, because it brought it to my committee.”
But he also thanked those such as Greene for their support, saying: “I’m glad they’re out there doing it. So the louder they get, the better.”
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), who filed the first resolution to impeach Mayorkas this Congress, likewise said he was assured by those in leadership that the committee would shepherd the investigation toward impeachment.
“Success has 1,000 fathers and mothers; defeat is an orphan. So I don’t care who takes credit for that, but it’s just good policy,” he said.
While he also credited Greene for getting the issue “dusted off” and back at the forefront, he said Democrats have focused on her role primarily as a fundraising method.
“I think that they see that as functionally something that will help them beneficially, because they use her as a poster child for raising money and stuff like that. Again, knowing what I know with the other Green, Mark Green, he was working on it this whole time,” Fallon said.
Biggs said getting to a point where they could take a vote was time-consuming and required “individual work” in terms of meeting with holdouts, skeptics, and impeachment novices, a group he said “took a long time to persuade.”
“There were questions that needed to be answered. These people were asking me, ‘Andy, what’s a high crime misdemeanor?’ And so I would present to them my interpretation, my understanding of what the founders intended with high crimes and misdemeanors. And then somebody else would say, ‘But Mayorkas isn’t the one making these decisions, isn’t he? Doesn’t have a boss? And maybe that’s what we should go after.’ And so we would have walked through that,” he said, a necessary move given the slim Republican majority.
But Biggs said credit does not rest with the Freedom Caucus alone, and that there were “a lot of people who were very interested, very frustrated with the border and wanted to really get to the bottom of what was happening.”
In a Congress when Freedom Caucus members and allies have long battled with GOP leaders over conservative policies and spending levels and were often brushed off, impeachment of Mayorkas is a clear win for them.
But even those who have long called for that move signal they will not be satisfied — with no one expecting the Senate to convict and remove the secretary.
“It’s not an end. It’s just it’s another piece of the puzzle. It’s a part of the message,” Roy said. “He should be impeached because he’s not following the law. But then what, right? We still have to deal with the border.”
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Author: Rebecca Beitsch