Speaker Johnson calls failed Mayorkas impeachment vote ‘a setback’

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Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday said the failed vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was “a setback,” as the conference eyes another attempt to oust the embattled Cabinet secretary.

Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against impeaching Mayorkas Tuesday evening, which was enough opposition to tank the GOP-led effort that had been a key priority throughout this Congress. The final vote was 214-216.

“On impeachment, last night was a setback, but democracy is messy,” Johnson told reporters in the Capitol. “We live in a time of divided government, we have a razor-thin margin here, and every vote counts.”

The vote to impeach Mayorkas unfolded in a stunning — and surprising — fashion on Tuesday, prompting GOP leaders to scramble on the floor when it became clear that their effort would fail.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) voted “no” after refusing to reveal his stance ahead of the referendum, joining Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who previously said they were against the effort.

But in a twist, Rep. Al Green (R-Texas) — who was expected to miss the vote — entered the House chamber and cast a vote against impeaching Mayorkas, bringing the final tally to 215-215. Top lawmakers surrounded Gallagher on the House floor before the vote closed in an apparent attempt to convince him to change his vote.

If Green had been absent, the effort to impeach Mayorkas would have been successful. The only lawmaker who did not vote was Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is receiving treatment for cancer.

Green told NBC News that he came to the Capitol from the hospital, where he received surgery. He reportedly arrived on the House floor in a wheelchair and wearing hospital scrubs.

Johnson referred to the Democrat’s surprise appearance on Wednesday.

“Sometimes when you’re counting votes and people show up when they’re not expected to be in the building it changes the equation,” he said.

Republicans, nonetheless, are vowing to bring the articles of impeachment against Mayorkas back to the floor. Several GOP lawmakers have said the conference will be successful once Scalise is able to return to Washington and vote in favor of the effort.

The articles charge Mayorkas with “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law,” taking aim at him for alleged violation of immigration laws by failing to detain a sufficient number of migrants, in addition to “breach of trust,” which accuses him of not carrying out his responsibility, misleading Congress and obstructing its investigation.

“We have a duty and a responsibility to take care of this issue,” Johnson said Wednesday. “We have to hold the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security accountable. Mayorkas needs to be held accountable, the Biden administration needs to be held accountable.”

“We will pass those articles of impeachment,” he continued. “We’ll do it on the next round.”

If Scalise returns to the Capitol and all lawmakers are present and vote the same way as Tuesday night, Republicans will have enough support to impeach Mayorkas.

One potential curveball, however, is Tuesday’s special election to replace former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in New York’s 3rd Congressional District. If former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) beats Republican Mazi Pilip for the seat, and is sworn in before the re-do vote, the effort will fail again, assuming all lawmakers are present and vote the same way.

The three GOP defectors are unlikely to change their votes. Buck told The Hill on Tuesday “I’m not switching my vote” if the articles come back to the floor.

And in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday evening, Gallagher warned that ousting Mayorkas would “pry open the Pandora’s box of perpetual impeachment,” arguing that the allegations against him do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

“Impeachment not only would fail to resolve Mr. Biden’s border crisis but would also set a dangerous new precedent that would be used against future Republican administrations,” he wrote.

Miranda Nazzaro contributed.

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