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The House Is About to Deliver Articles of Impeachment Against Mayorkas. It Could Get Messy

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House Republicans are preparing to sign articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and walk them across the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate as soon as this week. That will make Mayorkas the first cabinet official to be formally impeached in 150 years. But what happens next is far from certain. 

Only one thing is for sure: it's going to get messy. Democrats control the Senate and almost certainly will vote to acquit Mayorkas, arguing that the articles of impeachment against him are deeply flawed and based on Republican objections to the Biden Administration’s immigration policy—not on any alleged high crimes and misdemeanors.

The question is, how long will the process drag out? 

Both parties have procedural tools at their disposal. The top Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, told reporters April 9 that he thought he had the votes to rapidly close up the impeachment proceedings in the Senate. “We’re going to try and resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Impeachment should never be used to settle policy disagreements,” Schumer said outside the Senate floor.

The Constitution gives the Senate “the sole Power to try all Impeachments” and requires two-thirds of Senators to convict. That means that the House has been given right to accuse and the Senate has the right to acquit or convict. But the actual proceedings of an impeachment trial aren’t listed in the founding document and instead have been largely set by historic precedent. That gives Democrats in the Senate some leeway in determining what happens once they receive the articles. 

Read More: Mayorkas Is Only the Second Cabinet Member to be Impeached. The First Was a Civil War Hero

Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah are concerned that Schumer will put forward a motion to table the articles of impeachment by majority vote, without a Senate trial. They are demanding that Schumer move forward with a Senate trial of Mayorkas, they wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 7. Democrats “want to avoid an uncomfortable election-year discussion about President Biden’s biggest failure: the U.S. southern border invasion,” Cruz and Lee wrote. 

Cruz and Lee also point out that Republicans went forward with a trial when they were in the majority during the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2020 over whether he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Senate Republicans voted to acquit him—and Trump was tried and acquitted again in a second impeachment trial over his role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. For the Jan. 6 impeachment charges in 2021, Cruz and Lee voted with 43 other Senate Republicans to dismiss them, but that wasn’t enough votes to table the House charges and the trial went forward anyway.

Now, a group of Republicans are planning to delay Schumer’s ability to close up impeachment proceedings with speeches demanding a full trial and forcing time-consuming votes on points of order.

Legal experts have told TIME that the articles of impeachment against Mayorkas are very weak, lack evidence of wrongdoing, and don’t rise to the standard set in the Constitution. The impeachment articles charge Mayorkas with "willfully and systematically" refusing to comply with federal immigration laws during a surge in migrants crossing the border in recent months and say he obstructed the House Republican investigation into his handling of the border and "breached the public trust" by telling Congress that the U.S.-Mexico border is secure.

Read More: Experts Blast Mayorkas Impeachment Probe for Lack of Evidence

The border is at the center of an election-year fight. The number of illegal border crossings has increased in recent years. The Biden Administration has asked Republicans in Congress to approve more funding to hire Border Patrol agents and immigration officers, but Republicans have refused, saying that they want Biden to be more restrictive with the resources he has. 

The effort to impeach Mayorkas in the House failed twice before ultimately passing in February. Even some House Republicans felt that impeaching Mayorkas went too far. “It’s completely unconstitutional,” Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, said Nov. 15, during a broadcast of Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM. “Impeachment is a very limited power to remove officials for, quote, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” McClintock said.

When House Republicans voted to impeach Mayorkas in February, Biden said in a statement that “history will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games”—a statement White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed on April 9.

Throughout the impeachment process, Mayorkas has denied any wrongdoing. After the House voted to impeach him, Mayorkas told CNN on Feb. 17 that the impeachment allegations are “baseless allegations, no basis in fact, no basis in law, and I continue my work.”

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