Ariana Figueroa, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
January 10, 2024
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans began their impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with a Wednesday hearing, a move Democrats called politically motivated.
The House Committee on Homeland Security hearing aimed to set the stage for Mayorkas’ impeachment, with Republicans arguing that the Biden administration appointee has failed to fulfill his oath of office and therefore should be impeached.
“Our evidence makes it clear, Secretary Mayorkas is the architect of the devastation that we have witnessed for nearly three years,” said Rep. Mark Green, the Tennessee Republican who leads the committee.
Green referenced as evidence a December report from committee Republicans that found Mayorkas failed to “enforce laws passed by Congress.” Green said he plans to hold additional hearings on impeachment proceedings.
Democrats on the committee called the five-hour hearing a “sham,” and argued that disagreements over policy are not an impeachable offense.
“You cannot impeach a Cabinet secretary because you don’t like the president’s policies,” the top Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said. “This impeachment is a sham.”
Congress has only impeached one Cabinet member in U.S. history, Secretary of War William W. Belknap in 1867. He was unanimously impeached in the Senate for “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.”
No formal charges have been brought against Mayorkas, and Mayorkas did not appear at the hearing, nor did any DHS officials. The witnesses included GOP attorneys general from Montana, Missouri and Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma, like every other state, bears a significant financial burden related to the routine services that must be provided to those who are here illegally,” Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in his opening statement.
The hearing comes as Mayorkas, the White House and a group of bipartisan senators are working to strike a deal on immigration policy tied to a global security supplemental package that includes billions in aid for U.S. border security.
In the House, Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana had a Wednesday phone call with President Joe Biden in which Johnson advocated for the White House to accept the GOP-passed bill H.R. 2, Raj Shah, deputy chief of staff for communications for Johnson, said in a statement.
“The Speaker strongly encouraged the President to use his executive authority to secure the southern border and reiterated the contents of his letter to the President dated December 21, 2023,” Shah said.
H.R. 2 is dead on arrival in the Senate.
The witness tapped by Democrats, Frank O. Bowman, a professor emeritus of law at the University of Missouri School of Law, said that policy disagreements should not be the grounds for impeaching an official.
“I’ve seen nothing that rises to the level of an impeachable offense,” he said.
Louisiana Republican Rep. Clay Higgins said that Mayorkas is “going to be impeached,” because “he is the executive in charge of the border policy for President (Joe) Biden.”
“That executive has a responsibility to advise the president that his policies are not only not working to secure the border, they’re bringing an injury to the country,” Higgins said.
Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Giménez said that he believes Mayorkas should be impeached because he is not following the laws passed by Congress.
The last time Congress passed comprehensive immigration policy was in 1986.
“We have this issue of policy versus law, “Giménez said. “The law clearly states that people coming into the United States or people seeking asylum in the United States, two things happen to them, they are either detained here or they are detained in another country waiting the outcome of their asylum hearing.”
He criticized the Biden administration for overusing its parole authority to allow migrants to work and temporarily stay in the country.
The president has parole authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said the Biden administration was violating the law by using parole. Texas, and a dozen attorneys general — including Bailey — filed a suit to block the Biden administration’s use of its parole authority.
Bailey said that decision from the Biden administration to use parole authority forced “a lawsuit from several like-minded state attorneys general because of the drastic, terrible harm that’s occurring on the streets in our communities.”
Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who filed a resolution impeaching Mayorkas, said that the two impeachments of former President Donald Trump were “quite a political, sham impeachment.”
Trump was first impeached in 2019 on two charges of obstructing Congress and abusing his power. The second impeachment was for inciting a pro-Trump mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Bowman repeated multiple times that differences in policies do not reach the bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors” to impeach a government official.
“Congress and the executive are (supposed) to work together to solve the country’s problems. They’re often going to disagree about how to do that,” he said. “In our system, the solution is the hard work of legislation, of negotiation, of compromise, of coalition building. Impeachment is not and never has been the answer.”
He said the framers of the Constitution made it clear that impeachment is “for the most extraordinary of circumstances, and simply to resolve a partisan, political debate or to change policy is not it.”
Fentanyl crisis cited
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said he has seen an increase in fentanyl opioid deaths in his state and blamed Mayorkas.
“At the direction of Secretary Mayorkas, the Department of Homeland Security has wreaked havoc at our southern border, exacerbated the fentanyl epidemic, and emboldened the drug cartels,” Knudsen said in his opening statement.
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, in the United States there were 106,699 drug overdose deaths in 2021 — a 16% increase from 2020.
In Montana, there were 199 overdose deaths in 2021, or 19.5 per 100,000 people. It’s also the top safety threat in the state.
“Fentanyl is our biggest issue,” Knudsen said.
Democratic Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey said that Congress needs to address the fentanyl crisis and discern “why is fentanyl killing so many of our folks,” and to understand “the demand for it as well.”
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