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Mayorkas faces icy Senate Republicans day after impeachment case dismissed

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(WASHINGTON) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faced an icy reception from Senate Republicans on Thursday, one day after the swift dismissal of the GOP impeachment case brought against him over his handling of immigration policy and the southern border.

Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill to testify about President Joe Biden’s 2025 budget proposal and make the case to lawmakers for additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

But what unfolded on Wednesday was still top of mind for some Republican senators, who blasted the secretary’s leadership and scorned Democrats for voting down the impeachment articles against Mayorkas as unconstitutional.

“Yesterday, your impeachment trial ensued in the Senate,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in his opening statement. “I don’t see this as a happy day, or a day I take relish or pleasure in. But it’s a sad day. A sad day in the sense that it’s come to this. This isn’t a debate over policy, it’s a debate over malfeasance, a debate over whether you’ve been telling the truth and whether you’ve been enforcing the law.”

Paul later added, “All I can express is disappointment and bewilderment that the Democrats let you get away with it.”

House Republicans impeached Mayorkas in February, accusing him of willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law as well as breach of public trust.

The Senate, in party-line votes, discarded the charges as not rising to the level of “high crime or misdemeanor” as required under Article II of the Constitution.

All Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders voted to kill the articles and adjourn in the span of three hours after a Republican senator rejected Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s offer for some debate time on the matter. Later, Schumer pushed back on GOP criticism of the dismissal stating their impeachment case was “hallow, frivolous, political” and amounted to policy disputes rather than impeachable offenses.

Mayorkas had called the impeachment charges “baseless” but largely kept his head down as the proceedings unfolded in the House and Senate.

On Thursday, he told lawmakers he hadn’t read the text of the specific allegations brought against him by GOP lawmakers.

“I have not read the articles of impeachment,” Mayorkas said as he faced questioning from Sen. Mitt Romney, who responded: “I’d probably want to do that.”

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., asserted Democrats set a “new precedent” on Wednesday by quashing the trial and asked Mayorkas, “Do you think you’re being silenced because Democrats are terrified of your record and unable to defend you, or because they don’t trust you?”

“Neither, senator,” Mayorkas responded.

In addition to swiping at Mayorkas over impeachment, Republicans pressed him on high numbers of migrant encounters at the southern border and some migrants committed crimes, often pointing to the killing of Laken Riley. Mayorkas declined to comment on the case specifically but said that migrants who “pose a public safety threat or national security are our highest priority for detention” but like administration’s past, the number of encounters at the border have exceeded the number of detention beds available.

Democrats often countered Republicans complaints about Mayorkas and the border by criticizing them for blocking a bipartisan deal that included some of the most comprehensive immigration reforms in decades.

“It’s interesting the nature of my colleagues’ energy and attention when that same energy and attention seemed to lapse when there was an opportunity to do something to provide the kinds of supports, resources and technologies that were requested [and] negotiated in a bipartisan way,” said Sen. Laphonza Butler, a California Democrat.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., also took issue with Republicans blocking the legislation from coming to the floor for debate or a vote.

“The American people are smart, so all of the performative chest-pounding today on border security is utterly disingenuous,” Ossoff said.

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