DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment proceedings: What to expect

Written by on April 8, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — After voting in February to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, impeachment proceedings will head to the next stage on Wednesday, when the articles of impeachment are expected to be transmitted to the Senate.

One thing is clear: this is not going to look like the impeachments we’ve seen in the last few years since a full-scale trial on the Senate floor is not likely, according to senators and leadership aides — despite what many House Republicans want.

The House voted to impeach Mayorkas on Feb. 13 by a vote of 214-213 over what Republicans claimed was his failure to enforce border laws amid a “crisis” of high illegal immigration, allegations the secretary denied as “baseless.”

DHS has criticized the impeachment efforts.

“Without a shred of evidence or legitimate Constitutional grounds, and despite bipartisan opposition, House Republicans have falsely smeared a dedicated public servant who has spent more than 20 years enforcing our laws and serving our country,” DHS spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg said. “Secretary Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security will continue working every day to keep Americans safe.”

Even though there’s a slim chance of a Senate trial, exactly how the impeachment proceedings will play out is still a bit unclear: the Senate has the option to either dismiss the trial outright or to require a committee to hear it instead.

Here’s how things are expected to play out this week:

Wednesday’s ‘engrossment ceremony’
It’s not yet clear what time Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings will occur.

There is expected to be an “engrossment ceremony” in the Rayburn Room, during which Speaker Mike Johnson signs the articles. Typically, the speaker makes a short, on-camera speech after signing.

Immediately after, the articles will be walked across the Capitol building, led by the House clerk and the House sergeant-at-arms and followed by the impeachment managers. The articles will go from the doors of the House chamber through the rotunda and to the doors of the Senate.

The House impeachment managers are: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Reps. Andy Biggs, Ben Cline, Andrew Garbarino, Michael Guest, Harriet Hageman, Clay Higgins, Laurel Lee, August Pfluger and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Sergeant at Arms will then announce the impeachment managers on the floor of the Senate, who — once received — will be escorted to the well of the Senate.

The articles will then be read aloud. Once the articles are read, whoever reads them will say: “The managers request that the Senate take order for the trial, the managers now request leave to withdraw.”

The Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray, D-Wash., will announce that the Senate will notify the House when it is ready to proceed with the trial.

Murray will preside over the Senate trial. Chief Justice John Roberts is not required to preside over this impeachment because it is not an impeachment of a sitting president.

The managers will then take a procedural walk back to the House.

Senators sworn in as jurors
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said senators will be sworn in as jurors on Thursday.

“After the House impeachment managers present the articles of impeachment to the Senate, Senators will be sworn in as jurors in the trial the next day,” Schumer’s office said in a statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, which means impeachment-related events could being later Thursday afternoon.

Once the Senate is back in session, the oath is administered to the Senate as a group. The senators all stand in unison and raise their right hand.

Murray will read the oath: “Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, now pending you will do impartial justice according to the constitutions and laws so help you god?”

Senators then present to the dais in groups of four to sign the oath book.

Then the Sergeant at Arms will make the proclamation: “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States an article of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.”

The Senate then begins voting on the organizational rules of the impeachment, a process that could go a little off book.

This is not likely to be an impeachment like the previous ones; it will not consumer weeks of floor time. However, leadership has been tight-lipped about their precise plans.

Possibilities of how proceedings could play out
One possibility is that the Senate could move very quickly to dispense with the trial. In that scenario, Senate Democrats can make a motion to dismiss the impeachment — a move that would only take 51 votes.

If the vote is over 50, the impeachment would be tabled and that would be the end of it. Democrats control 51 seats in the Senate, so if they stick together, they can dismiss the trial without any GOP support if they so choose.

While senators have the authority to vote to dismiss the trial, don’t expect House Republicans to take kindly to this option.

In a letter to Schumer on March 28, Johnson, along with the impeachment managers, called upon Schumer to “fulfill your constitutional obligation to hold this trial.”

“To table articles of impeachment without ever hearing a single argument or reviewing a piece of evidence would be a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people whom we all serve,” they wrote.

Another options: the Senate votes to send the trial to be heard by a committee.

When someone who is not the president of the United States is impeached, the Senate has within its rules the ability to have a special committee of senators hear the whole of the trial instead of the entire Senate.

The committee is called a “trial committee” and it is usually convened via an organizing resolution.

The Senate gets to set its own rules for a trial, so in most impeachments, there’s a debate over an “organizing resolution” — a proposed packet of rules governing the trial that the Senate must vote to approve. If the Senate were to try to kick this impeachment to a committee, instructions to do that would likely be in this organizing resolution.

That resolution would be brought up, debated and voted on. If it were approved, the articles would then be kicked to the committee and sent off the Senate floor. Leadership would appoint members (usually 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans) to sit on that committee.

Impeachment managers would then present their cases to the committee. Lawyers for Mayorkas would have time to present counter-arguments.

The committee would make footage of their hearings available to the public and to senators. At the end of the trial, they’d present a full report and recommendation to the whole of the Senate. The whole Senate would then vote on whether or not to convict.

The last impeachment to be heard by a trial committee with the impeachment of federal judge Thomas Porteous in 2010.

A final option is that the Senate has a regular trial.

Sources have signaled to ABC News that there will not be an impeachment trial like the ones we’ve come to know from impeachment proceedings of former President Donald Trump.

Though it’s unlikely that we’d see a weekslong trial on the floor of the Senate, it’s still technically possible for this to occur.

If it does, the Senate would adopt an organizing resolution and then managers would present their arguments.

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