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Senate Democrats unceremoniously kill Mayorkas impeachment trial

Brent D. Griffiths,Bryan Metzger   

Senate Democrats unceremoniously kill Mayorkas impeachment trial
  • The Senate voted on party lines to effectively end Alejandro Mayorkas's impeachment trial.
  • GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted "present" on both votes.

And just like that, it's over.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats voted to declare as unconstitutional both articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — effectively ending the trial.

It put a swift end to what had been a monthslong process by House Republicans, championed originally by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Democrats were unable to convince any Republicans to side with them.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted "present" on the first article, alleging "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law," while voting against the second article, alleging "breach of public trust."

Some Republicans, including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, had long questioned the case against Mayorkas but ultimately sided with his party on Wednesday — a break from the last two impeachments he's dealt with.

Senators did not officially vote to dismiss the case. Rather, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved for each article to be declared unconstitutional because neither article alleged an impeachable offense. Democrats agreed with Schumer's move, effectively rendering the articles moot and the trial over before House Republicans could present their case.

Schumer proposed to effectively end the trial after Sen. Eric Schmitt, a Missouri Republican, rejected a deal that would have allowed Republicans a few hours to debate the case. Without the consent of all senators, Republicans were left with little other power to delay the trial, as no public debate is allowed during an impeachment trial without an agreement. The only other ways the Senate could have held such a debate is either behind closed doors or for the impeachment trial to be temporarily put on hold. Republicans unsuccessfully tried to pursue both of those options.

"We gave your side a chance for a debate in public where it should be, and your side objected," Schumer said on the Senate floor after Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, proposed a private debate. "We are moving forward."

After the trial ended, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was "not a day that's a proud day in the history of the Senate."

Senate Republicans were also unsuccessful in their effort to pressure vulnerable Democrats to back their push for a longer trial. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who faces perhaps the toughest reelection race of any senator, voted with his party.

House Republicans struggled to get the impeachment articles over to the Senate in the first place, initially failing to impeach Mayorkas in an initial vote in early February.

Shortly thereafter, Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin — once seen as a rising star in his party — announced his resignation soon after voting against the impeachment. His resignation is set to take effect sometime this week.

The GOP was successful on their second attempt, ramming through what is only the second impeachment of a Cabinet secretary in history.

Unable to get a full trial, a handful of Senate Republicans resorted to needling their colleagues over their historic decision to dismiss the charges against a sitting administration official before even holding a trial.

Democrats have countered that they are not worried about establishing a new impeachment precedent, since they viewed the case against Mayorkas as especially weak. The White House has repeatedly pointed out that leading conservatives, and even House lawmakers, long questioned whether the charges against Mayorkas truly met the constitutional bar of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Republicans have hammered the White House for months over President Joe Biden's immigration policies. Polling shows that Americans largely agree with their disdain over Biden's handling of the US Southern border, and they likely hoped a trial would offer a grander stage for their attacks.

Former President Donald Trump pushed Republicans to press their case against Mayorkas. But even his involvement could not paper over the disputes about what to do about the Homeland Security secretary. Greene forced her colleagues to vote on moving forward with Mayorkas' impeachment last November.

In response, eight Republicans joined Democrats to punt the issue to the House Homeland Security Committee. Greene railed against the eight Republicans but ultimately ceded the ground to Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee.

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