Mike Johnson, responds to question
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) during a press conference in the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Photo credit: © Shawn Thew/EFE via ZUMA Press

Note to House GOP: Be careful what you wish for.

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You figure there has to be some kind of plan. 

The House moved heaven and earth to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, finally succeeding Tuesday by a 214-213 vote after the previous vote ended in embarrassing failure.

Following the party-line vote — in which all Democrats present voted “No,” along with three Republicans — there was cheering and backslapping on the House floor, a big grin on Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) Cheshire Cat face. Don’t tell us we never get anything done!

So what have they done? And what is the plan? How is the first impeachment of a Cabinet member in 148 years — skipping over the shenanigans of the Gilded Age, the skullduggery of Teapot Dome, the criminality of Watergate, and so much more — supposed to play out? And why is the MAGA-GOP convinced it will be to their electoral advantage, which — let’s face it — is what pretty much every move is about at this point?

For starters, there’s about as much consensus as there ever is regarding anything in Washington that the Senate will not convict and remove Mayorkas. That would require a two-thirds majority, 67 senators, and the House impeachment managers — a posse of mostly hard-core MAGAs including the resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — will have a hard enough time getting all 49 Republican senators on board, let alone persuading any Democrats. The House GOP, dim bulbs that some believe them to be, were of course bright enough to know this going in. Nevertheless, they persisted.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Super Bowl, Press Conference

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas delivers remarks at a Super Bowl Press Conference. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Flickr

The path to acquittal winds a good deal and will be strewn with the kind of arcane tactical and parliamentary maneuvers that tend to bewilder and alienate all but the wonkiest Americans. Trial rules will be proposed and fought over, likely with the usual speechifying. But the Democrats, with their slim Senate majority, will control most of the process and likely put limits on the grandstanding. 

It is even possible the Senate may find a way to not hold a full-blown trial, dismissing the charges as fatally flawed, as most legal experts have judged them to be. 

Greene & Co. blithely reduce immigration, one of the most complex, chronic, and intractable challenges facing all three branches of government — rife with disagreements over goals, policies, and procedures — to a black-and-white, “come out with your hands up” crime scene.

The resolution of impeachment, for all its impressive legalese and constitutional brocade, does not seem to specify any actual “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the standard set by the Constitution. Rather, its nominal author, the ubiquitous and inimitable Greene, complains that Mayorkas “failed to control the border,” and then committed a “breach of public trust” by telling Congress that the border was “no less secure than it was previously [under Trump].” These charges, such as they are, conveniently overlook the shortage of resources and funding for such enforcement, not to mention the cruel, unconstitutional, and ineffectual border policies of the Trump administration. 

If impeachment had been intended by the Constitution’s framers as a blunt tool to settle policy disputes, our nation’s history would be teeming with impeachments of Cabinet members. As it stands, Mayorkas is the second. Greene & Co. blithely reduce immigration, one of the most complex, chronic, and intractable challenges facing all three branches of government — rife with disagreements over goals, policies, and procedures — to a black-and-white, “come out with your hands up” crime scene. 

A technical dodge by the Senate might in fact turn out to be the best outcome from a MAGA standpoint, as they’d waste no time in alleging a coverup. The alternative, an actual trial — which the MAGA-GOP has been banking on, and salivating over, as a way to keep the border issue in the news and draped around Biden’s neck — might well turn out to treat the voting public to an exposure, in gory detail, of this impeachment as the empty, baseless, and cynical ploy that most commentators believe it is.

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After the humiliation of losing the first vote, Johnson and the House GOP were all but compelled to soldier on and try again (only the absence of a Democratic House member down with COVID-19 saved them this time from a tied vote and a second defeat). And now the fruits of victory are theirs to savor. Such as they are.

First, their “success” does, in a warped way, validate their 2019 and 2021 warnings that Trump’s impeachments would open Pandora’s box and turn impeachment into just another handy political weapon (that the grounds for impeaching Trump were rock solid naturally cuts no ice at all in MAGA world). 

And the gross cheapening of impeachment serves as yet another political gift to Trump, diluting the perceived gravity of his own high crimes. The Mayorkas impeachment can also be viewed as a saber-rattling dry run for the potential impeachment of Joe Biden. And, last but not least, it takes its honored place in the Steve Bannon “flood the zone with shit” plan for ramping up the chaos and confusion such as to usher in the great authoritarian revival.

Those “achievements” may be enough to account for the GOP’s post-vote whooping and hollering festivities. But they are evidently counting on squeezing a lot more juice from this orange. Presumably they have a plan; presumably they’ve made their calculations. 

But calculation, since they claimed the House majority a year ago, has not been their strong suit. There are many more moves to play but I suspect that the Mayorkas impeachment circus may turn out to be one of those “be careful what you wish for” events for the MAGA-GOP.


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