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Failed Mayorkas Impeachment Set for a Comeback

A numbers game that defies belief.

In a last-minute twist of fate, the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas went from doomed-to-fail to back-on-the-table. After hours of debate in the House of Representatives yesterday evening (Feb. 6), a floor vote looked set to end in a tie – meaning the impeachment effort was dead. However, the motion was resurrected when one GOP member switched his vote to the Nays, allowing for the issue to be raised and voted upon once more. Mr Mayorkas will no doubt have to face the wrath of Republican representatives again, who accuse him of deliberately failing to uphold the nation’s immigration laws. At this stage, his ultimate reprieve is far from certain.

A Mayorkas Math Problem

Most perplexing was how the GOP leadership failed to do the vote-count math in advance. The final tally came in at 216 to 214 against impeaching the cabinet secretary. The initial votes were 215 to 215 – a dead heat and the death knell for the issue. Then, Representative Blake Moore of Utah switched his vote to the prevailing side (the Nays) so he could “move to reconsider,” a tactic which gives the GOP another bite of the impeachment apple.

New banner Liberty Nation Analysis 1The House is currently made up of 219 Republicans and 212 Democrats (and four vacancies), giving the majority party a three-vote leeway on any issue. And, indeed, three GOP members voted against the motion: Reps. Mike Gallagher (WI), Tom McClintock (CA), and Ken Buck (CO). At least two of these had made their feelings known in advance. So that should have been enough to secure a one-point victory for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). But it seems Mr. Speaker forgot about his fellow Louisianan, Majority Leader Steve Scalise who was absent undergoing cancer treatment.

Scalise’s absence meant the GOP could only afford to lose two additional votes, rather than three. Once the glaringly obvious oversight became apparent, Rep. Moore switched sides so that he could call for a revote at a later time. But when will that be?

A Timing Tightrope

Should the House majority again take a run at impeachment – and there is no reason to expect they will not – it could happen as soon as the power balance shifts ever so slightly. That could include Scalise returning to the chamber, which is, according to Scalise himself, going to be soon. Or there is a special election in Long Island to replace disgraced Rep. George Santos coming next week, which the Republicans are hoping will go to their nominee, local lawmaker Mazi Melesa Pilip. Pilip is, according to Politico, a registered Democrat, although she holds her current position as a Republican.

Timing is crucial here for the GOP. Assuming Scalise votes with his party, and all other House members vote the same way as they did yesterday, then Mayorkas will be impeached by a one-vote margin. If Pilip wins in Long Island, that could either give a two-vote margin or, if she sides with Democrats, would reset everything to a tie. And then there is the possibility that the Long Island seat flips to Democrat control, which would also result in a tie and essentially mean impeachment efforts are over for this Congress.

In terms of timing, the safest option for the GOP would be to get Scalise back in the chamber before the special election on February 13, when a new unknown quantity enters the equation.

A Test of Leadership

The phrase “herding cats” is apropos for the situation. To impeach or save Mayorkas, both parties will have to ensure that every single member of their respective caucus is on hand for when the vote comes due. No easy task. Also, the House leaders will need to make certain they have the requisite support; an outright defeat for Johnson would be a significant blow to his already precarious leadership. As well, the timing is crucial. February 13 brings an unknown element to the voting math.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, each side will need to make their case to the American public who – in some major polling – rank the illegal immigration issue as of more concern than even inflation. It is one thing to win a vote, but if the message you convey to your own supporters is either one of weakness, spite, or dereliction, it is really no victory at all.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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