DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn in during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/ZUMA

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On Tuesday, House Republicans fell short of getting enough votes to adopt a resolution to impeach Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in what would have been the first impeachment of a cabinet leader since 1876. The vote was the culmination of incessant attacks by House Republicans against the secretary, who they accused of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust.” For months, Democrats and an array of legal experts have decried the proceedings as a “political stunt” with no basis on constitutional grounds.

The final vote was 214-216 with four Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in voting against the resolution, including Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and Blake Moore (R-Utah).

“They say this is about securing the border,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said of his GOP counterparts on the House floor, “and their plan to secure the border is to impeach the guy responsible for securing the border and replace him with—now wait for it…they aren’t sure.” He added: “Republicans simply do not want to participate in government. They want to create chaos, they want to create confusion, and they want to create a campaign issue for Donald Trump going into the next election.”

As I’ve written about before, Republicans’ scapegoating of Mayorkas has been a long time in the making:

Almost since the moment Mayorkas, a career public servant with extensive experience as a federal prosecutor and head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), began the job as head of DHS, Republicans have made him a target. They say that Mayorkas has willfully violated his oath of office by refusing to do his job of securing the border. Republicans claim Mayorkas has abused his office’s authority when using a discretionary parole program to allow certain groups to lawfully enter the country and has lied to Congress about having “operational control” of the border—an impossible, congressionally defined standard that requires “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.” 

When asked about the process in a New York Times magazine tight-lipped interview, Mayorkas called the process “baseless” and “a political process, and I am not engaged in politics.” 

The failed effort to impeach Mayorkas represents an embarrassing blowback for House Speaker Mike Johnson—who is simultaneously handing a death sentence to the Senate bipartisan border deal negotiated with the White House with input from Mayorkas. It was also something of a test run. Conservative Republicans aspired to pursue an impeachment against President Joe Biden. “We’re here because the madcap wild goose chase to impeach Joe Biden has produced no wild geese,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said on Tuesday, calling the process against Mayorkas a “worthless trinket of a consolation prize.”

Prior to the vote, some House Republicans showed trepidation in moving forward with the impeachment process. In an op-ed, Rep. Buck declared he was voting no on the impeachment. “Partisan impeachments that do not meet the constitutional standard will boomerang back and hurt Republicans in the future,” he wrote. “I can envision a future Republican administration where a Democrat-led House uses this precedent to act against a Republican Cabinet member who isn’t discharging their duties in a way that Democrats desire.” 

“I think that it lowers the grounds of impeachment,” Rep. McClintock said in an interview with CNN, adding that they “will have been complicit in redefining the fundamental definition of impeachment.” Moreover, McClintock wrote in a 10-page memo to his colleagues opposing the impeachment, “it is delusional to believe the Senate will vote to remove Mayorkas on the grounds laid out by the [Homeland Security Committee]. At best it will be a party-line vote. More likely, it will be a bi-partisan repudiation of of a misuse of power.” 

Mayorkas’ impeachment would have faced an uphill battle in the Democrat-led Senate. 

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