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Senate Dismisses Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas Without a Trial

The Senate on Wednesday rejected impeachment proceedings against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, voting along party lines before the start of his trial to dismiss two charges accusing him of failing to enforce the laws on immigration and having abused the public trust.

By a vote of 51 to 48, with one senator voting “present,” the Senate ruled that the first charge was unconstitutional because it did not meet the constitutional bar for a high crime or misdemeanor. Republicans were united in opposition, except for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the only one to vote “present,” while Democrats were unanimous in favor.

Ms. Murkowski joined her party in voting against dismissal of the second count on the same grounds; he joined the party line by 51 votes to 49.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, decided to reject each accusation, arguing that a cabinet member cannot be impeached and removed from office simply for carrying out administration policy that ‘it serves.

“Validating these egregious abuses by the House would be a grave mistake and could set a dangerous precedent for the future,” Schumer said.

It took the Senate only about three hours to decide the matter.

Republicans, for their part, warned that the dangerous precedent was one that Democrats had set by deciding to skip an impeachment trial altogether, which they said was a dereliction of the Senate’s constitutional duty. They repeatedly tried to delay the firing, unsuccessfully following a series of party-line votes.

“Filing articles of impeachment would be unprecedented in the history of the Senate — it’s that simple,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

Mr. McConnell did not mention that he had voted in favor of an unsuccessful Republican effort in 2021 to reject a second impeachment proceeding against former President Donald J. Trump over the January 6 attack on the Capitol before the Senate holds a trial.

Republican senators were outraged by Mr. Schumer’s maneuvers. Some have accused him of degrading the institution of the Senate and the Constitution itself. Others have knocked on their offices calling for the trial to be postponed for two weeks, until next month or even after the November election. They accused Mr. Mayorkas of lying to Congress and obstructing Republican investigations.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, visibly frustrated, rushed into the room to try to strategize with his fellow Republicans.

“Mayorkas and Biden’s policies have led to the worst border crisis in American history,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican in the House.

Mr. Mayorkas is the first sitting cabinet member in U.S. history to be impeached. William Belknap, the Secretary of War, was impeached in 1876, but he resigned just minutes before the scheduled vote.

Unlike Belknap, Mr. Mayorkas has never been accused of corruption or any crime other than pursuing immigration policies that Republicans oppose.

Democrats denounced Mr. Mayorkas’ impeachment as illegitimate and politicized. Legal experts have called the accusations against him baseless, arguing that the charges against him do not constitute impeachable offenses. But Republicans moved forward anyway, which was essentially an attempt to blame the secretary of state for President Biden’s immigration policies, which they say have fueled a wave of illegal migration.

The votes came after Republicans spent much of the day denouncing chaos at the U.S. border with Mexico and blaming it on the Biden administration. Under Mr. Biden, southern border crossings have reached record levels. Republicans insisted that Mr. Schumer hold a trial in which the House impeachment managers would lay out their charges.

Failure to do so, Mr. McConnell said, “would mean running away from both our fundamental responsibility and the blatant truth of the record crisis at our southern border.”

The Senate prepared to transform into an impeachment court on Wednesday, with senators taking the oath of office on the floor and having to sit at their desks to begin the proceedings. But they spent much of the afternoon debating whether to proceed with the trial, and ultimately Democrats, who control the chamber, were successful in their attempt to end the trial. the procedure before it starts.

After the first charge was dismissed, Mr. Lee stood up and asked angrily, “If this isn’t a felony and a serious misdemeanor, what is it?”

After the articles of impeachment were dismissed, Mr. Lee and his fellow Republican senators took turns laying out the accusations against the cabinet secretary, but speaking to a nearly empty Senate.

At a news conference after the votes, Mr. Schumer said he did not regret setting a precedent that impeachment allegations could be dismissed without a trial. If future secretaries or presidents are impeached over policy disagreements, those charges should also be dismissed, he said.

“The dangerous precedent is not the one Republicans are talking about, but that of letting impeachment replace political disagreements,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Mayorkas spent months ignoring the matter and continuing to work. He negotiated a border security deal with Senate Republicans and Democrats, but it collapsed after Mr. Trump opposed it.

Mr. Mayorkas spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill speaking about his agency’s budget request and calling on Congress to provide the department with more resources to enforce border laws, hire more staff and pass legislation he negotiated .

“Today’s decision by the Senate to reject House Republicans’ baseless attacks on Secretary Mayorkas definitively proves that there was no evidence or constitutional basis to justify impeachment,” said Mia Ehrenberg, spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security.

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