Senate Rejects Impeachment Charges Against Homeland Security Secretary as Unconstitutional

The clash over the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in the Senate lasted less than three hours as Democrats moved quickly on Wednesday to dismiss the charges as unconstitutional.

The stunted Senate trial marked the end of the deeply partisan and historic effort to convict and remove Mayorkas from office over his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate Democrats voted along party lines to kill the two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas as unconstitutional for failing to meet the constitutional bar of a high crime or misdemeanor, arguing that it could set a dangerous precedent and that a cabinet member should not be impeached merely for carrying out the policies of their Administration.

The outcome was widely expected, but less clear was how quickly Senate Democrats would be able to close up the impeachment process if Republicans forced a series of time-consuming votes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made the motion to kill the articles of impeachment after Republicans rejected his proposed agreement that would have allowed floor debate and votes on trial resolutions before voting to dismiss the case.

“To validate this gross abuse by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Schumer said as he opened the floor. Before the vote to dismiss the charges, the Senate turned into a courtroom as Senators were sworn in as jurors and signed a rarely-used impeachment oath book that is stored in the National Archives. It was just the 22nd time in the upper chamber’s history that an impeachment trial was set to be underway, and the first time a Cabinet secretary had been the subject of one .

Mayorkas has been a top target of Republicans as soon as they took control of the House in 2022. They blame him for the high number of crossings at the U.S. border with Mexico, and they voted to impeach him in February. The articles of impeachment brought by the House charge Mayorkas with “willfully and systemically” refusing to comply with federal immigration laws and having “breached the public trust” by making false statements to Congress—such as claiming the border is “secure.” But multiple constitutional experts have that the evidence does not reach the high bar of high crimes and misdemeanors set by the U.S. Constitution.

“Today’s decision by the Senate to reject House Republicans’ baseless attacks on Secretary Mayorkas proves definitively that there was no evidence or Constitutional grounds to justify impeachment,” Mia Ehrenberg, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, said in a statement. “As he has done throughout more than 20 years of dedicated public service, Secretary Mayorkas will continue working every day to enforce our laws and protect our country.”

Several Senate Republicans pushed back against the idea of a quick dismissal of the charges on Wednesday, with some on the far-right trying to find a way to force a full trial, but their efforts failed to gain enough traction to pass. , a Kentucky Republican, said it would be a mistake for Senators not to carry out their constitutional duties and have a full trial.

Mayorkas has labeled the impeachment effort against him as highly partisan, claiming that Republicans aren’t serious about border security since they blocked a bipartisan border deal in February that would have expanded the powers of the federal government to address the influx of migrants entering the country. “We cannot resource ourselves—we need Congress to do so,” Mayorkas said Wednesday on CBS Mornings. “We cannot change a broken immigration system, only Congress can do so.”

The Biden Administration has made similar calls for months, requesting Congress approve more funding to hire Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. But Republicans have so far refused, saying that they want President Joe Biden to be more restrictive with the resources he has. The bipartisan border deal, crafted in part by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, has also faced a range of attacks from former President Donald Trump.

Congressional Republicans have faced mounting pressure from their base to hold Biden and his federal agencies accountable over border security policies. The issue is expected to be at the center of the 2024 elections, as the number of illegal border crossings has increased in recent years. But as of Wednesday, 10 months since the House impeachment inquiry began, Mayorkas is no longer at the center of the fight in Congress.