By Moira Warburton and Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday to pause the effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, halting a Republican campaign that alleges he has been derelict in his duty of managing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The articles of impeachment, introduced by Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene on Thursday, contend that Mayorkas, an appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden, violated his oath of office by failing to constrain the record numbers of migrants arriving at the border.
Eight Republicans joined with 201 Democrats to vote in favor of referring the articles back to the House Homeland Security Committee, which is carrying out its own investigation into Mayorkas’ alleged dereliction of duty. Two hundred and one Republicans voted against the move.
Greene said after the vote that she was “outraged” by the result.
“We have an invasion at the southern border,” she said. “But all we hear about is send money to Ukraine, send money to this. People want Mayorkas impeached, they want accountability.”
Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, accused Republicans of “wasting time” on the impeachment.
“Secretary Mayorkas continues to be laser-focused on the safety and security of our nation,” Ehrenberg said in a statement. “This baseless attack is completely without merit and a harmful distraction from our critical national security priorities.”
The vote occurred less than five days before Congress’ deadline to extend funding or send the U.S. into its fourth partial government shutdown in a decade.
Republicans have been threatening to impeach Mayorkas for months, blaming Biden’s administration for rolling back harsh restrictions on accepting migrants and asylum seekers put in place under then-President Donald Trump, a Republican.
If the Republican-controlled House impeaches Mayorkas, he will almost certainly be found innocent after a trial in the Senate, which Democrats control by a slim margin.
The impeachment allegations stem from a Republican assertion that the Biden administration could better manage border security, rather than any criminal offense. Impeachment requires a standard of treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Congress has never removed a U.S. cabinet secretary from office.
Since Biden took office in 2021, U.S. border agents have made more than 5 million arrests of migrants making irregular crossings – that is, not through a controlled border station – over the U.S.-Mexico border. Migrants have arrived from around the world; large numbers have fled economic and political turmoil in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Both Biden and Trump are seeking another term in office in 2024, with Trump the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.
House Republicans have also launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden. The probe is focused on the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and the White House has denied any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton and Ted Hesson; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Gerry Doyle)