House Republicans impeach Alejandro Mayorkas in historic vote

The party suffered a surprising defeat when they initially tried last week.

ByAyesha Ali ABCNews logo
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
House votes to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas in historic vote
The U.S. House has voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the Biden administration's handling of the U.S-Mexico border.

WASHINGTON -- The Republican-led House on Tuesday night impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over what they say is his failure to enforce immigration law at the southern border, which he denies as partisan and "baseless."

The vote succeed 214-213, with all Republicans voting in the majority and three Republicans voting with Democrats against impeachment. Two Democrats did not vote.

The Department of Homeland Security was quick to release a statement, blasting Republicans for the vote.

"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," said DHS spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg in a statement. "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.

She went on to say, "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. Secretary Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security will continue working every day to keep Americans safe."

In a statement, Speaker Mike Johnson responded following the vote.

"Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and consistently refused to comply with federal immigration laws, fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history," Johnson 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."

He ended with, "Alejandro Mayorkas deserves to be impeached, and Congress has a constitutional obligation to do so. Next to a declaration of war, impeachment is arguably the most serious authority given to the House and we have treated this matter accordingly. Since this Secretary refuses to do the job that the Senate confirmed him to do, the House must act."

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise had returned to Capitol Hill to help his party's narrow majority in its second vote to impeach Mayorkas.

A previous attempt to impeach the secretary surprisingly failed last week after a few Republicans voted against it along with all Democrats present.

Scalise, who has been undergoing treatment for blood cancer, was absent from last week's vote to impeach Mayorkas -- one of the reasons the GOP-led effort failed.

Scalise's office said in a statement on Thursday that he "successfully completed his autologous stem cell treatment and has been medically cleared to resume travel."

The Louisiana Republican is in "complete remission," the statement said -- clearing the way for him to vote with fellow Republicans to impeach Mayorkas, the first time that has happened to a Cabinet secretary since the late 1800s.

With Scalise, Republicans had the votes they needed against Mayorkas, whom they have accused of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and "breach of public trust" amid a surge in unauthorized migrant crossings, according to the articles of impeachment against him.

"This administration has removed, returned, or expelled more migrants in three years than the prior Administration did in four years," DHS responded in a memo circulated ahead of Tuesday's vote.

After Democrats -- and three Republicans -- said an impeachment over what they called "policy differences" was wrong, last week's vote failed 214-216, marking a crushing defeat for Speaker Mike Johnson and other House GOP leaders.

"Last night was a setback, but democracy is messy," Johnson told reporters the next day on Capitol Hill, seeking to soften the losses. "We live in a time of divided government. We have a razor-thin margin here, and every vote counts."

Last week, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado voted against Mayorkas' impeachment, telling ABC News' Jay O'Brien that the secretary had "not committed a high crime or misdemeanor."

"There is a policy difference," Buck said.

Buck was joined by fellow GOP defectors Reps. Tom McClintock and Mike Gallagher, who announced over the weekend that he won't run for reelection. The three were still expected to vote against impeaching Mayorkas.

With the vote succeeding on Tuesday, it marks just the second time in U.S. history a Cabinet official has been impeached, after William Belknap in 1876.

After being impeached, Mayorkas will now face a trial in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority vote will be needed to convict and remove him from office, which is very unlikely to happen.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Mayorkas repeated that the Republicans' allegations to impeach him are "baseless."

He said the flood of migrants at the border has been a problem for years and that legislative action is needed to fix the system.

"The system has not been fixed for 30 years. A bipartisan group of senators have now presented us with the tools and resources we need -- bipartisan group -- and yet, Congress killed it before even reading it," Mayorkas said.

This past December, there were 302,000 encounters along the southwest border -- the highest monthly total ever recorded.

Kristen Welker pressed Mayorkas on NBC on whether he bears the responsibility for the flood of migrants crossing the border -- something President Joe Biden has called a "crisis."

"It certainly is a crisis, and, well, we don't bear responsibility for a broken system and we're doing a tremendous amount within that broken system," Mayorkas said. "But, fundamentally, fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix that."

Last week, the Senate's vote to advance a bipartisan foreign aid bill with major border provisions failed -- a blow to the Senate negotiators who worked for months with Mayorkas to develop the border deal.

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler, John Parkinson and Lauren Peller contributed to this report.