House GOP eyes new ‘gross incompetence’ threshold for Mayorkas impeachment

House GOP eyes new ‘gross incompetence’ threshold for Mayorkas impeachment

House Republicans kicked off their push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday with a new proposed standard for recommending the ouster of a Cabinet official: “gross incompetence.”

Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee claim that surging migration on the U.S.-Mexico border shows Mayorkas is in “dereliction of duty,” pointing to record-high crossings in recent months. Democrats have dismissed their effort as a political attack that misuses a congressional tool designed to punish egregious behavior such as criminal activity — but the GOP made clear it sees Mayorkas’ management as meeting the standard.

“The constitutional history is overwhelmingly clear on this subject. The Founders designed impeachment not just to remove officials engaged in criminal behavior, but those guilty of such gross incompetence that their conduct had endangered their fellow Americans, betrayed the public trust, or represented a neglect of duty,” Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said.

The GOP’s move to impeach Mayorkas without evidence of criminal or other improper activity beyond its policy dispute with him is unprecedented. Republicans argue that Mayorkas is not upholding existing immigration laws, but Democrats counter that the entire affair is designed to appeal to their base in an election year.

“They know their already razor-thin majority is slipping away and think impeaching Secretary Mayorkas, even though there’s absolutely no basis for it, will keep them in control of the House,” said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the committee.

While the authority to impeach Cabinet secretaries is clear in the constitution, it has only happened once before in the nation’s history; the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap in 1876 over bribery.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first of what is expected to be a series of impeachment proceedings in the panel. While Mayorkas has been invited to appear in an open hearing, he has not yet responded to the committee. It is not yet clear what specific charges the House GOP will bring, if or when articles of impeachment are eventually drafted.

The hearing featured top law enforcement officials from Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma, who testified about the impact that the situation at the border is having in their states. It came as Mayorkas remains actively involved in bipartisan Senate negotiations on border and migrant policy changes designed to shake loose a major foreign aid package that’s stalled on the Hill.

“Mayorkas is gearing up President Biden’s policies — that’s what a secretary is going to do,” top border negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told reporters. “So, you can swap secretaries. The policies are going to be exactly the same.”

Lankford’s stance, and his willingness to engage with Mayorkas on border policy, illustrates how little traction the House’s impeachment push has in the Senate. The upper chamber is unlikely to remove him from office, if or when the House ever formally votes to impeach. While a handful of Senate Republicans are cheering on the House GOP, more are wary and don’t want the topic landing on their plate.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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