As Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) struggles to achieve detente between the fractious wings of his caucus, the House minority leader and aspiring speaker visited El Paso, Texas, this week to offer a glimpse of what to expect from the incoming Republican congressional majority he hopes to lead: aggressive action against the Biden administration's immigration policies — and in particular, against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
"His actions have produced the great wave of illegal immigration in recorded history," McCarthy said during a press conference along the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday. "This is why today I am calling on the secretary to resign."
"If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action, and every failure, to determine whether we can begin an impeachment inquiry," he added.
While McCarthy had already telegraphed the GOP's renewed focus on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, Tuesday's threat of potential impeachment for Mayorkas is a significant — and pointed — escalation in the Republicans' broader push to restrict migration across the southern border. It represents a punitive action aimed at the Biden administration, rather than simply a legislative proposal to address immigration as a whole.
In part, this escalation seems to be as much aimed at McCarthy's own party as at the White House. As The Washington Post's Marianna Sotomayor and Maria Sacchetti noted this week, turning up the impeachment rhetoric for Mayorkas may tamp down on growing rumblings within the GOP's rightmost flank to bring impeachment against the President himself. "GOP members and aides have privately mused their hope that removing Mayorkas may be enough of a scalp to throw at Trump's "Make America Great Again" base," they wrote, adding that it would allow Republicans to avoid "establishing a precedent for the House majority to impeach every president that is not of its party."
But McCarthy may have personal motivations as well. Politico pointed out on Wednesday that the ramped-up rhetoric comes as McCarthy
"scrambles to stave off a far-right rebellion against his speaker bid." The Post's Sotomayor and Sacchetti seemingly concur, writing: "McCarthy's public declaration against Mayorkas was seen by some as an early signal to the Freedom Caucus that he is taking seriously their calls to investigate the Biden administration at a time when he's facing trouble securing the 218 votes necessary to officially become speaker Jan. 3."
In a sign that he is indeed keeping an eye toward his party's rightmost flank during his fight for the Speaker's gavel, McCarthy made special point on Tuesday of boasting that he'd already secured the support of caucus co-founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and staunch MAGA Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) for his investigations. He also told Fox News that he planned to hold his congressional border hearings at the border, to demonstrate its insecurity.
The White House on Tuesday shrugged off McCarthy's threat, however, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters that "McCarthy has no plan. The Republican Party has no plan. They do nothing except political stunts."