Democrats Stand United to Block Impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary

A contentious vote Monday evening once again saw U.S. House Republicans try to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but this time the effort failed to garner enough support and the measure failed, 198-179.

This was the first time that House Republicans had attempted to impeach a Biden administration official. Impeachment is a largely symbolic gesture in the House, as it's the Senate's responsibility to convict officials of impeachment and remove them from office if deemed necessary.

But Democrats have stood united against the effort and framed the attempt as a Republican attempt to distract from the impeachment inquiry into Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also voted in favor of impeachment, but a handful of Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the measure.

Here's what you need to know: Who is Alejandro Mayorkas, and what did he do to provoke Republicans' impeachment efforts? Mayorkas is the son of Jewish refugees from Cuba who fled the island nation during its revolution. He was born in the United States after his parents gained asylum.

He is a graduate of Brown University and the Georgetown University Law Center and has worked in both the public and private sectors, specializing in immigration and international affairs.

Mayorkas served in the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration and was appointed as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California by President Clinton. He served in the Clinton Administration between 1998 and 2001, and later served in the Obama administration between 2009 and 2013.

He was confirmed by the Senate as the Homeland Security Secretary in 2013 by a vote of 78-16, with majority support across party lines.

Why are Republicans trying to impeach him now? U.S. House Republicans say the secretary is violating immigration laws by not detaining enough migrants and by implementing a humanitarian parole program that they say bypasses Congress to allow people into the country who wouldn't otherwise qualify to enter. They allege that he's lied to Congress when he's said things like the border is secure.

They argue that these combined actions have created a prolonged crisis at the border and that it warrants impeachment. The three House Republicans who voted against impeachment argued that the charges didn't meet the bar for impeachment.

Didn't the House already vote on whether to impeach Mayorkas? Yes. House Republicans tried to impeach the secretary on Feb. 6 but failed. With Democrats united against the effort, Republicans needed every vote they could muster from their razor-thin majority. But in a rowdy, dramatic evening Republicans fell short with three Republicans voting against the measure, and a fourth flipped his vote from yes to no in a tactical move that allowed the impeachment issue to be revisited. The final vote was 214-216.

What happens next? The first question is whether House Republicans have the votes this time. The House is slated to vote Tuesday evening.

If he's impeached, Mayorkas still keeps his job. It's the Senate that decides whether an impeached official is convicted and thus ousted from their job.

But conviction is a much higher bar than impeachment, and Democrats control the Senate 51-49. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict, compared to the simple majority needed to impeach in the House. That means all Republicans, as well as a substantial number of Democrats, would have to vote to convict Mayorkas — a highly unlikely scenario considering some Republicans are cool to the idea of impeachment.

Mayorkas has said he's ready to defend himself in the Senate if it comes to a trial. And in the meantime, he says he's focused on his job. This story was written by Boston Globe reporter Matt Rocheleau. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrocheleau.