Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Second Time's the Charm for Mayorkas Impeachment

With House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) back in town, and knowing that another Democrat (see above) was likely to be elected Tuesday, Mike Johnson was hustling to get in a second vote on the impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. This one was successful by the barest of margins, with 214 Republicans voting for, and 210 Democrats and 3 Republicans (the same trio as last time) voting against.

Is this a win for the Republican Party? Technically, we suppose, since they did finally get Mayorkas impeached. But on a night when Republican messaging on immigration got a pretty stiff rebuke in New York, it's clear that the Party is going to have to sell this aggressively. And we see at least three problems on that front:

  1. Razor's Edge: The first vote failed in high-profile fashion. The second vote succeeded by the narrowest margin possible, with several Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats. This does not scream "consensus" or anything close to it.

  2. 176 Years: Just about every article written about the impeachment yesterday noted that Mayorkas is the first cabinet secretary to be impeached since Reconstruction. This surely raises a very obvious question: What did he do that was so bad, particularly when there have been so many shady Cabinet members over the years (Albert Fall, Earl Butz, Alberto Gonzales, Ryan Zinke, etc.) who did not clear the bar? The Republicans need to have a clear answer to that question, and we have seen no evidence they have one.

  3. The Senate: The Senate, as you may have heard, is currently controlled by the Democrats. And so, the Democrats get to decide exactly how to handle this matter. Needless to say, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) & Co. are going to find a way to undermine this as much as is possible.

    Schumer hasn't laid his cards on the table yet, obviously, but he has a number of options at his disposal. To start, he could move to dismiss the charges without a trial. The arguments here would be that: (1) no high crimes or misdemeanors were committed, and impeachments are not to be used for partisan disputes, and (2) the articles of impeachment are badly written, with each containing a litany of grievances, instead of each containing a single, distinct charge, as is required by law. This would be the quickest way to dispense of the matter, though it might make it look like the Democrats don't take the border seriously, or that they think Mayorkas has something to hide.

    Alternatively, the Democrats could refer the impeachment to a committee, almost certainly the Senate Judiciary Committee, to examine the articles of impeachment and to report back. This would show that the Democrats "take these issues seriously," and would still quash the impeachment, since the Democrats on the Committee (and maybe some of the Republicans) would surely vote to recommend no further action be taken. This approach would also save valuable floor time, though it would waste a bunch of the Committee members' time.

    Finally, the Democrats could hold a trial, and try to use it to make the Republicans look foolish. This would certainly make a lot of headlines, and could really hurt the GOP if things go poorly. On the other hand, if the Republican impeachment managers do well, and the defense does poorly, it could give more juice to the red team.

Whatever happens, the Republicans are going to get a few news cycles' worth of coverage of the Mayorkas impeachment, and in February or March no less, and that will be that. Even if the coverage is favorable (unlikely), it's rather hard to see how that will carry over to November. Sure, the GOP could rail against Mayorkas, and could rail against the Senate bill negotiated by one of their own, but what is the sound bite version of what Republicans are doing about the border? "We launched a failed impeachment and tanked a border bill" is not exactly bumper-sticker material.

Also, don't forget that the last time there was a stunt impeachment, namely with Bill Clinton, it rebounded on the Republicans. That could happen again, even though this impeachment is much further removed from the election than that one was (the impeachment was imminent at the time of the 1998 midterms, and became official shortly thereafter). Whereas we cannot imagine the current GOP soundbite, we can imagine the Democratic one: "The Republicans are not serious about the border, other than silly stunts." And we can also see the Democrats bringing that up one time, or two times, or a hundred times during the campaign. (Z)

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