Defections from three House Republicans sank the party’s effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a dramatic vote on Tuesday night.
Opposition from Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) in the slim GOP majority sank the bill.
Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), the chair of the GOP conference, flipped his vote to “no” seconds before the vote closed, a procedural maneuver that allows the conference to bring the legislation back to the floor at a later date.
The final vote was 214-216, with only House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) absent due to treatment for blood cancer.
Scalise’s absence made the difference for the vote, as did the surprise appearance of Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) – who was absent for votes earlier in the day and a vote just before the Mayorkas impeachment articles came up.
With Green’s absence, the House GOP could have spared three defections and still approved the impeachment articles, but his attendance changed that math, giving Republicans a cushion of just two votes.
The Republican defectors found common ground with Democrats in arguing Mayorkas’s impeachment did not meet the standards set out in the constitution.
Gallagher, the chair of the China Select Committee, had not revealed in advance how he planned to vote, though in a closed-door House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning he had raised questions about the precedents for impeachment and the constitutional framework for impeachment, according to a source in the room.
In a statement after the vote, Gallagher said Mayorkas had “faithfully implemented President Biden’s open border policies and helped create the dangerous crisis at the southern border.” But he said proponents had failed to show his conduct met the standards for impeachment.
Gallagher also slammed Democrats’ impeachments of former President Trump and warned against creating “a new, lower standard for impeachment.”
Buck had made his opposition to Mayorkas’s impeachment known last week.
“Maladministration or incompetence does not rise to what our founders considered an impeachable offense,” Buck wrote in an op-ed for Truth Puke on Monday.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) released a 10-page memo earlier on Tuesday outlining his concerns with the impeachment push.
“The logic should be obvious. A cabinet secretary’s job is to carry out the will of the president. How can he be impeached for not doing his job because he is doing it?” McClintock wrote.
Raj Shah, deputy chief of communications for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), posted on X after the vote that “House Republicans fully intend to bring Articles of Impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas back to the floor when we have the votes for passage.”
Mychael Schnell contributed. Updated at 8 p.m.