Tom McClintock, GOP holdout on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary, helps sink vote

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Rep. Tom McClintock was one of three Republicans bucking party by voting against the impeachment of President Joe Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary over his handling of the southern border.

His and other defections sank a vote to impeach Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — something GOP leadership pictured as a victory last week that was soon cast into doubt.

The vote failed, 216-214. Tuesday night. It is expected to be reconsidered in another vote, though no specific date or time was announced.

“The only way to stop the border invasion is to replace the Biden administration at the ballot box,” McClintock wrote on social media Tuesday. “Swapping one leftist for another is a fantasy, solves nothing, excuses Biden’s culpability, and unconstitutionally expands impeachment that someday will bite Republicans.”

McClintock, R-Elk Grove, wrote a 10-page memo released Tuesday against impeaching Mayorkas.

With a razor-thin House majority, Republicans could only stand to lose a few members’ support tonight to impeach Mayorkas, assuming all available members voted. Democrats were united in opposing impeachment.

On Tuesday night, McClintock, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. voted no.

Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, changed his vote to “no” so the articles could be reconsidered at a later date. To propose reconsidering a vote, a House member has to be on the side that won.

Buck said he’d vote no last week, confirming his conviction in an opinion piece published Monday. The Colorado Republican is leaving Congress in 2025 due to disagreements with party members who continue to raise false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Previously, McClintock blasted the impeachment effort as based on policy disagreements. He said while Mayorkas was the “worst cabinet secretary in American history, guilty of malfeasance, neglect of duty and maladministration,” those weren’t grounds for impeachment.

“The founders specifically rejected terms like malfeasance, neglect of duty and maladministration as grounds for impeachment,” McClintock said in a November statement, “because they feared such vague terms would be twisted for political ends and render the executive subordinate to the legislative branch.”

Impeachment is one of Congress’ highest powers of checks and balances to charge and try federal officials for treason, bribery or “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” While the House has the power to impeach an official, only the Senate can remove one from office through a trial.

“This baseless impeachment should never have moved forward; it faces bipartisan opposition and legal experts resoundingly say it is unconstitutional,” said DHS spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg.

There are 219 Republicans and 212 Democrats in the House. Four seats are vacant. With all the remaining members voting, Republicans needed 216 yeses to meet the majority threshold to impeach Mayorkas.

If Mayorkas is impeached, the Senate is expected to quickly convene a trial. It would take two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, to remove him from office. Since 51 senators typically vote with Democrats, that’s probably impossible.

McClintock was one of three California Republicans who helped block a floor vote to impeach Mayorkas in November. But the other two Californians, Reps. John Duarte, R-Modesto, and Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said they would vote to impeach after the Homeland Security Committee put forth articles through the normal process.

The November attempt, pushed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was thwarted 209-201, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats against it.

McClintock, who leads the House subcommittee on immigration and border security, called her effort unconstitutional. He chastised the impeachments of former President Donald Trump when Democrats held the House majority.

“We must not allow the left to become our teachers,” McClintock said. “If these clear constitutional principles are not restored, now, that power will be just one election from being turned against the constitutionalists on the Supreme Court, or upon any future Republican administration.”

The Homeland Security Committee last week approved two articles of impeachment that claim Mayorkas failed to enforce U.S. immigration laws and breached public trust in congressional testimonies about the U.S.-Mexico border. The committee had started interviewing former officials in June to try to build a case that Mayorkas was in “dereliction of duty.”

Democrats, including Biden and Mayorkas, have criticized the effort as baseless.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last Wednesday: “Congressman Tom McClintock said, ‘These are not impeachable offenses.’”

“Our challenge to House Republicans is this,” Jean-Pierre added: “Will you go against the very voices you typically listen to play a dangerous, unconstitutional game?”

Impeachment is typically reserved to condemn and remove officials who face credible accusations of criminal wrongdoing. Using impeachment to condemn political decisions in Congress would be unprecedented. But lawmakers have increasingly threatened to use impeachment as a political tool to lambast opponents.

He would be the second cabinet official in history to be impeached. The first was Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876 who stood accused of improper conduct while administering government contracts. He was acquitted by the Senate.