House showdown as Republicans try to escalate border and immigration issues

A partisan showdown was on display Tuesday as House Republicans attempted to escalate immigration and border issues on two fronts.

Republicans moved forward with efforts to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, as they lambasted the border deal recently brokered between the Joe Biden White House and a bipartisan group of senators, in a split-screen that Democrats criticized as hypocritical.

A House committee convened Tuesday to consider two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, who attacked Republicans’ accusations against him as “false”, “baseless” and “inaccurate”.

Related: Mike Johnson declares Senate immigration deal ‘ absolutely dead’, says report – live

In a letter sent to the Republican chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security just hours before the markup hearing began, Mayorkas dismissed the impeachment process as “politically motivated”. House Republicans have presented no clear evidence that Mayorkas committed high crimes and misdemeanors, which is the requirement for impeachment, but their resolution accuses the cabinet secretary of refusing to comply with the law and breaching public trust.

“I have been privileged to serve our country for most of my professional life. I have adhered scrupulously and fervently to the oath of office I have taken six times in my public service career,” Mayorkas wrote in his letter. “I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted.”

The Republican chair of the committee, Mark Green of Tennessee, criticized Mayorkas’ letter as a woefully inadequate response to concerns about the situation at the US-Mexican border, where arrests for illegal crossings have reached record highs.

“This 11th-hour response demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which Secretary Mayorkas views his responsibilities,” Green said in his opening statement at the markup hearing. “We cannot allow this man to remain in office any longer. The time for accountability is now.”

Democrats retorted that Republicans were making a farce out of the impeachment process by rushing to oust a cabinet official without evidence of wrongdoing.

“We’re here based on two completely fabricated, unsupported and never used before articles of impeachment,” Dan Goldman, a Democrat of New York, said at the hearing. “This is completely debasing and demeaning the impeachment clause of the United States constitution, and it is a gross, gross injustice to the credibility of this institution.”

The Republican-controlled committee is expected to advance the resolution, and the House speaker, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has indicated that the full chamber will vote on impeaching Mayorkas in the coming days. Even if the resolution passes the House, it will certainly fail in the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority.

To demonstrate his scorn over the proceedings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, introduced several procedural motions to delay the progress of the hearing. Thompson accused Republicans of attempting to impeach Mayorkas to boost the political prospects of Donald Trump, who is widely expected to win his party’s presidential nomination.

“If House Republicans were serious about improving conditions along the border, they would provide the department the funding necessary to do so. They have not,” Thompson said in his opening statement. “They don’t want progress. They don’t want solutions. They want a political issue. And most of all, they want to please their disgraced former president.The extreme Maga [‘Make America Great Again’] Republicans who are running the House of Representatives are deeply unserious people.”

While the House moves forward with impeaching Mayorkas, Trump has called on Republicans to sink the bipartisan border and national security deal. Johnson has already said that the proposal, which would grant Joe Biden the authority to shut down the border between ports of entry when attempted crossings increase to a certain level, would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

At a press conference held Tuesday, Johnson dismissed claims that House Republicans were doing Trump’s bidding as “absurd” and insisted they were focused on addressing the situation at the border.

“Our duty is to do right by the American people, to protect the people. The first and most important job of the federal government is to protect its citizens. We’re not doing that under President Biden,” Johnson said. “Our majority is small. We only have it in one chamber, but we’re trying to use every ounce of leverage that we have to make sure that this issue is addressed.”

The White House then attacked Johnson for flip-flopping on the passage of a bipartisan immigration bill, noting that the speaker previously called on members of both parties to “come together and address the broken border”.

“Today, Speaker Johnson claimed he believes action should be taken to secure the border,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “That’s exactly what President Biden and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are doing. Speaker Johnson should join them.”

Speaking on the House floor, Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts, mocked Republicans’ assertions that they were entirely focused on policy concerns and emphasized the challenges of the current divided Congress. While Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House, Democrats control both the Senate and the White House.

“I will say to my Republican friends: you are not in control of everything. You don’t have a dictatorship,” McGovern said. “If you want to get something done, we’re going to have to compromise.”

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