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House votes to impeach Mayorkas — passes by 1 vote

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The Republican-led House voted this evening along party lines to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: On this vote, the yeas are 214, and the nays are 213. The resolution is adopted.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL BANGING)

SUMMERS: It was the second attempt in as many weeks and marks House Republicans making good on a mission they have held since they took control of the lower chamber last year. The articles of impeachment accused Mayorkas of willful and systemic refusal to comply with immigration laws and breach of public trust. Mayorkas is now the first cabinet secretary to be impeached in nearly 150 years, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to do much with this House action. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has been watching all of this action from the Capitol, and she joins us now. Hey there.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Claudia, as we just mentioned, this was the second attempt. It was just last week that House Republicans failed to impeach Mayorkas. And tonight they were successful, but by a slim margin. Tell us what happened.

GRISALES: Right. This was the second time and the charm for Republicans to finally get this done. They have a very tight majority. And last week, they could only afford to lose two Republicans. They lost three who joined Democrats to block this effort. But they also had a key absence. Senate Majority Whip Steve - I'm sorry, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is battling cancer. He was not there. And so he returned tonight, and Republicans quickly returned to have this vote to impeach Mayorkas. And there were not enough Democrats to help block the effort. In the end, they were able to impeach him by that one-margin vote, which was 214-213.

SUMMERS: And Claudia, tell us - why did this impeachment specifically become such a focus for Republicans?

GRISALES: Right. We heard Republicans talking about this even before they took control of the House last year - as they were running for election the year prior. And Mayorkas represented, if you will, the low-hanging fruit. A lot of members want to impeach President Biden. But as we saw with the Mayorkas effort, there was just not enough unity for the Republican conference to tackle the Biden effort. But Mayorkas - they were much more closer, and they'd been building this case for months. And it's also a reminder that, without Republicans having control in the Senate or the White House, and they don't have these options to change bills - to change laws, if you will - so they've focused on investigations and oversight of the Biden administration. And it's also a key moment for House Speaker Mike Johnson, who's only a few months into the job, to address demands from his more hard, right-wing members who have been demanding this action.

SUMMERS: That's right. And this action tonight is in the House. What do you think we could see in the Senate, which, of course, we should just remind folks, is controlled by Democrats.

GRISALES: Right. They have a few options once they officially receive these articles. The House Republican Conference has already named Michael McCaul of Texas - he's the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - as a manager for the impeachment. We'll see others who will be named. But it's unclear if we'll see a traditional trial, as we did during former President Trump's administration. He saw two impeachment trials tied to his time as president. The Democrats could also hold a scaled-back trial. And regardless of all this, a conviction requires 60 votes, and Democrats are adamantly opposed. And even some Senate Republicans are as well.

SUMMERS: This all plays out, of course, in an election year, as both parties are trading blame for the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. In a few sentences, how could this impeachment and the border issue play out this year?

GRISALES: Right. We should note a spokesperson for Homeland Security said the impeachment was done without a shred of evidence or legitimate constitutional grounds. We expect Democrats to make that argument on the campaign trail. Republicans, meanwhile, will continue to point to Democrats as the reason there's a crisis on the border, and we expect it to be a central issue for the election this year.

SUMMERS: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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