Senators prep for Mayorkas impeachment as government funding deadline looms

Senators are set to deal with the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in swift fashion this week as they look ahead to a pair of government funding deadlines.

The Senate returns to Washington on Monday from a two-week recess staring down a number of priorities, including averting a partial government shutdown. But first, they must deal with a pair of articles of impeachment against Mayorkas the House approved earlier this month.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said the articles would be transmitted upon the Senate’s return, with senators set to be sworn in as jurors shortly after.

It’s unclear how Schumer will try to dispense with the articles. He could try to dismiss them, or he could refer them to a special committee, both of which would require a simple majority vote.

No matter which he chooses, members on both sides of the aisle widely expect the chamber to spend the minimal amount of time possible on the topic, especially with government funding on the front burner.

“I don’t know what leadership’s preference would be. But I bet the preference is going to be to spend as little time as possible so we can focus on [appropriations],” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told reporters last week, noting the Senate also has to act on the House’s tax reform bill and could return its focus to the national security supplemental it passed before recess.

“Those are items that we want to turn our attention to. Those are meaningful and substantive,” Kaine continued. “Unlike the Mayorkas impeachment.”

Many Republicans agree.

There has been increasing skepticism from corners of the Senate GOP conference who question whether Mayorkas — who has no shortage of detractors among the membership — reached the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors and whether impeaching him was a good use of time.

They also have wondered aloud whether impeachment is the correct remedy as some believe Mayorkas is simply carrying out the Biden administration’s agenda, and that an ouster of the secretary wouldn’t change much.

“There’s so much happening. … We already know the outcome, so why would we spend time on a pointless exercise,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “I’m not even comfortable impeaching cabinet secretaries. They work for the president. To the degree that their boss would be facilitating high crimes and misdemeanors in the cabinet, that’s the boss’s fault.”

“I just think it’s weird to be impeaching somebody who already has a supervisor,” Cramer said.

It remains unclear exactly when the articles will come over. One Senate GOP source said the House has not yet decided when to transmit them because doing so next week could be complicated by the first government funding deadline.

The first four funding bills need to be dealt with by Friday at midnight, while the rest of the funding expires the following Friday.

Top senators still expect the articles to arrive this week though, and for Schumer to move quickly once they are transmitted. Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican, told The Hill in an interview that he expects the chamber to take up the articles this week and that Schumer will move to table them almost immediately.

“That’s my assumption on how he’s going to play it,” Thune said. “I think that we’ll get a better read on that [this week], but that’d be my guess.”

The two impeachment articles accuse Mayorkas of refusing to comply with immigration laws passed by Congress and of obstructing and misleading congressional oversight.

Skepticism from both sides hasn’t dissuaded a group of Senate conservatives who called on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to pressure Schumer to have a full trial on the pair of articles against Mayorkas. Thirteen Republicans signed the letter, which was organized by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

“This is an action rarely contemplated and never taken by the U.S. Senate in the history of our Republic,” the letter read. “It remains to be seen if the Senate rules will even allow us to brush aside our duty in this manner, but one thing is sure, if a similar strategy was contemplated by Senate Republicans when we were in the majority with a Republican occupying the White House, the opposition would be fierce and the volume from Democrats would be deafening.”

Cramer took issue with the letter, saying that he doesn’t “know why they’re pushing it” and questioned why it was addressed to McConnell as Schumer controls the floor.

He also noted the conference has not discussed the Mayorkas impeachment at recent lunches and meetings, the last of which came during as the chamber debated and ultimately passed the national security supplemental.

Biden, meanwhile, is weighing an executive order that would tighten how asylum claims are handled at the southern border, a move that would attempt to stem the flow of migrants at the Southern border and give him a political boost ahead of November. The move would come after a bipartisan legislative effort flamed out quickly after months of negotiations, which Biden was supportive of.

However, Republicans are panning him for the potential move, arguing it is too little and too late as border crossing numbers have exploded throughout his presidency, culminating with more than 300,000 crossings in December.

“The Biden administration’s irredeemable. There’s just nothing they can do at this point. There’s no executive order he can issue. There’s nothing else that can restore his credibility on the border,” Cramer said. “This is all on him. In fact, anything he does to correct it is an admission of his own failures.”

One question that still looms is whether Schumer will move to dismiss or table the articles, or to refer them to a special Senate committee to review the impeachment articles. The latter move would bury the articles until after Election Day and be beneficial for a number of Senate Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who are running for reelection in red or purple states and would avoid a tough vote months before Election Day.

“People are already blaming Biden and Democrats on the border, so we’d love to keep talking about it,” one Senate GOP aide said.

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