Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Thursday moved to force a vote on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, reviving an issue that had largely fallen by the wayside as the GOP remains divided on its impeachment authority.
The privileged resolution — which requires swift action — accuses Mayorkas of “willful admittance of border crossers” and says he has a duty to protect the U.S. from an “invasion.”
Greene also accuses Mayorkas of violating the Secure Fence Act — a 2006 law that demands perfection at the border by declaring the border operationally secure only if no people or contraband improperly enter the county.
“Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, in his inability to enforce the law, has engaged in a pattern of conduct that is incompatible with his duties as a civil officer of the United States,” Greene’s resolution states.
Mayorkas has pushed back against claims he has violated the law — claims even GOP lawmakers worry would set an impossible standard.
“The Secure Fence Act, specifically the statute, defines operational control as not having one individual cross the border illegally. Under that statutory definition, no administration has achieved operational control,” Mayorkas said when appearing before lawmakers in July.
“Obviously a layer of reasonableness must be applied here,” he told lawmakers last year when asked about the law. “And looking at that definition through the lens of reasonableness, we dedicate now 24,000 personnel to the border. We are surging increased personnel, facilities, and other methods of support. And in my opinion, operational controls means maximizing the resources we have to deliver the most effective results.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and congressional Democrats have cast the effort as improperly using impeachment over policy differences because Mayorkas has not committed high crimes or misdemeanors as required under the constitution.
“While the House Majority has wasted months trying to score points with baseless attacks, Secretary Mayorkas has been doing his job and working to keep Americans safe,” DHS said in a statement.
“Instead of continuing their reckless impeachment charades and attacks on law enforcement, Congress should work with us to keep our country safe, build on the progress DHS is making, and deliver desperately needed reforms for our broken immigration system that only legislation can fix.”
Greene called the impeachment measure to the floor as a privileged resolution, which forces leadership to take action on the measure within two legislative days. The House left Washington on Thursday and is scheduled to reconvene Monday evening.
Her move to force a vote on the Mayorkas impeachment resolution tees up another tough decision for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who was elevated to the top job roughly two weeks ago. Leadership can bring the legislation to the floor, motion to table the measure or refer it to committee, each of which would require a simple majority vote.
Greene said she called Johnson Thursday morning but did not talk to him.
“This is the No. 1 priority and it can’t be ignored,” Greene said of impeaching Mayorkas. “There shouldn’t be anything else.”
“I’m tired of waiting on everyone,” she later added.
Republicans have long targeted Mayorkas over what they see as a failure to secure the border and claims he lied to Congress — a matter stemming from an exchange with a lawmaker during which he was cut off from responding, as well as his general defense of his handling of the border.
In a hearing last year, Mayorkas said in response to a question from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) that the U.S. did have operational control of the border, adding, “And congressman, I think the secretary of Homeland Security would have said the same thing in 2020 and in 2019.”
After the GOP took control of the House, lawmakers began jockeying to be the first to initiate impeachment proceedings. Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) did so right after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) multiround effort to secure the gavel, prompting Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Airz.) to note he was the first to introduce the idea the year before.
But the idea has floundered as the GOP remains split on whether they want to pursue impeachment — with Mayorkas appearing to fall by the wayside as the House moved ahead with an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Lawmakers in the past have cautioned against the idea — either because it may not secure the votes or out of concern for rushing the process.
“We don’t have the votes,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in June.
Greene’s resolution jumps ahead of an ongoing process from House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) who has accused Mayorkas of “dereliction of duty” and laid out a multi-part plan to review the secretary’s work — something he plans to hand off to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees impeachments. Greene said she did not talk to the chairman about her effort to force a vote on the impeachment resolution.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has cautioned against rushing an impeachment without first making the case, despite his own impassioned criticism of Mayorkas’s job performance.
Still, as chair of the Homeland Security Committee in 2013, he warned against adopting the very standard Greene is now using to home in on Mayorkas.
“When you put this number as a metric in the definition of operational control, you make it impossible to achieve operational control. Perfection shouldn’t be the enemy of the good. Under this definition, again, we will never get operational control because nothing in life is a 100 percent,” he said at the time.
Greene’s current push is already dividing the House GOP conference.
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) announced Thursday that he supports Greene’s effort, writing in a statement, “We’re sick of the Biden administration’s refusal to crack down on border security.”
“We’re tired of feeling unsafe in our communities and we’re fed up with a Washington establishment that uses the border as a political tool,” he added.
But Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.), who represents a district President Biden won in 2020, is pumping the brakes on Greene’s endeavor, telling reporters that he is “not interested in these peripheral impeachments.”
“If we impeach anybody, it’s going to be up to Jamie Comer and the Judiciary Committee to decide that he’s ready to move the impeachment inquiry to a full impeachment on President Biden,” Duarte said.
Pressed on the fact that the legislation targeting Mayorkas will come to the floor, because of the procedural gambit used to force a vote, Duarte said: “We’ll vote against it and move on.”
Greene’s move to force a vote on her resolution to impeach Mayorkas came one day after the congresswoman said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that two of her constituents “were murdered by a human smuggler with a vehicle full of illegal aliens.”
The family that resides in her district was killed as the smuggler sought to evade police in a high-speed chase. Gonzales said the accident took place in his district.
Greene aimed her fury at Mayorkas, writing on X: “This is unacceptable! Alejandro Mayorkas is derelict of his duty to secure our Southern border and my constituents are dying!!”
Thursday morning, she teased her next move.
“I’m sorry world we can’t defend your borders anymore, we have a severe national security crisis at our own border. I’m done with hearings, reports, and phases. The only answer is impeachment, it’s time,” she wrote on X.
Greene’s effort to fast-track her impeachment resolution is not unprecedented.
In June, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) used the same procedural gambit to force a vote on her resolution to impeach President Biden over his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration policy. Her resolution accused Biden of abuse of power and dereliction of duty.
The House ultimately voted to refer the legislation to the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, shielding lawmakers from having to weigh in on the matter directly.
But the timing of Greene’s push is not ideal for the House. Lawmakers are racing the clock to fund the government by Nov. 17 or risk a shutdown, an effort that has proved difficult thus far in the fractious House GOP conference.
Updated at 5:42 p.m.