GOP putting vulnerable Senate Democrats on defense with Mayorkas impeachment

After weeks of waiting, House Republicans say they will send two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate next month in a move that GOP strategists say will put vulnerable Democrats such as Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) on the defensive.

Republicans acknowledge the impeachment charges against Mayorkas aren’t going anywhere in the Senate, but they say votes by vulnerable Democrats to dismiss them will incur political damage — raising the question of whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may try to protect his colleagues by postponing a vote until after Election Day.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) wrote a letter to Schumer on Thursday informing him the House will send the impeachment articles to the Senate on April 10.

“I would say it’s the biggest threat to Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester, specifically. It’s a really, really bad issue for them,” a Senate Republican strategist said of the vulnerability Republicans think the two Democrats have on border security and immigration issues.

“They’re caught between their base and what the majority of their state wants,” the strategist said.

Trump carried Ohio with 51.3 percent of the vote in 2016 and 53 percent in 2020. And he won Montana with 55.6 percent in 2016 and 56.9 percent in 2020.

Republican strategists are already taking shots at House Democrats in competitive Senate races who voted against impeaching Mayorkas.

“The impeachment is both good policy and good politics,” said Constantin Querard, a Republican strategist based in Arizona, where Democrats are trying to keep control of the seat now held by retiring Sen. Kyrsten Gillibrand (I-Ariz.).

He noted that the likely Democratic nominee for Senate, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), voted twice in House against impeaching Mayorkas.

“Gallego is very much a Mayorkas fan, whoever the Republican nominee is not,” Querard added. “It’s just another piece in that larger battle over illegal immigration that obviously is a big issue here.”

Schumer earlier this month dismissed the impeachment articles as “absurd” indicating little willingness to let the House impeachment managers consume days of Senate floor time presenting their case against Mayorkas.

“I think there is no evidence that he’s committed any impeachable activities or actions and I think it’s absurd,” he said.

Schumer’s office said Thursday that once the House managers bring the articles of impeachment to the Senate, senators will be sworn in as jurors for a trial the next day and Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will preside over the chamber.

The Speaker on Thursday tried to ramp up pressure on Schumer to allow a full trial to proceed.

“If he cares about the Constitution and ending the devastation caused by Biden’s border catastrophe, Sen. Schumer will quickly schedule a full public trial and hear the arguments put forth by our impeachment managers,” Johnson said after sending Schumer a letter notifying him that House impeachment managers will formally bring their accusations to the Senate after the Easter recess.

Senators expect Schumer to hold a quick vote to dismiss the matter — but that could expose his vulnerable Democratic colleagues to new immigration related attacks.

Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg pointed out that three House Republicans voted against the impeachment charges and accused the Speaker and impeachment managers of “trampling on the Constitution for political gain.”

“House Republicans have falsely smeared a dedicated public servant who spent more than 20 years enforcing our laws and serving our country,” Ehrenberg said.

The first attempt to impeach Mayorkas failed in the House by a vote of 214-216 on Feb. 6. It then passed the following week by a vote of 214 to 213.  

Vulnerable Democratic senators already taking heavy fire for voting against a series of immigration-related amendments to the $1 trillion spending package the Senate passed last week.

Senior Trump domestic policy advisor Stephen Miller went on conservative talk radio in Montana this week to attack Tester over immigration issues.

“Jon Tester … voted to kill the Laken Riley Act,” he said on “Montana Talks” referring to an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) to the spending package.

The amendment would have required Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest illegal immigrants who commit theft, burglary and larceny and detain them until they are removed from the United States. It passed as a standalone bill in the House earlier this month.

“How did Jon Tester vote? To keep the criminal migrants here in America,” Miller said.

Budd’s amendment failed by party-line vote of 47 to 51 with all Democrats voting against it.

Senate Republicans forced Democrats to take tough votes on several other immigration-related amendments to the spending package, including one sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to bar federal money for cities that refuse to comply with Department of Homeland Security requests to notify federal authorities when illegal immigrants are released from custody.

Democrats also voted en bloc against an amendment sponsored by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) to prohibit the federal funding of flights to bring migrants into the country.

The proposal was offered in response to a Biden policy enacted at the start of 2023 allowing migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the country for a period of two years if they have a financial sponsor and arrive at designated airport.

“It is going to be impossible for Senate Democrats to campaign on securing the border when they unanimously oppose commonsense measures like the Laken Riley Act, which would force ICE to arrest illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes,” National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Mike Berg said.

“They also unanimously voted to continue funding sanctuary cities and Joe Biden’s secret migrant flights into our country. Democrats created this crisis and are refusing to fix it,” he said.

An Associated Press “fact check” of Republican claims that the Biden administration has secretly flown migrants into the country found that Biden has parole authority under a 1952 law to admit refugees into the country on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons.

Senate Democrats tried to flip the script on Republicans last month after all but four GOP senators voted against a bipartisan border security deal that had the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal.

It would have given the president emergency power to limit the flow of migrants, reformed the nation’s asylum process, and increased funding for Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Democrats argued that Republican opposition to the deal showed they want to keep border security alive as a political issue heading into November instead of taking steps to fix the problem.

They are now deploying that argument to give political cover to endangered Democratic senators ahead of the battle over Mayorkas’s impeachment.

“Republican Senate candidates lost their message on the border the minute they opposed the border security bill that was written by their own party. Democrats will hammer these GOP Senate candidates for refusing to crack down on Chinese fentanyl, refusing to keep Americans safe, and failing to stand with border patrol agents who backed this proposal – the ads write themselves,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director David Bergstein said.

The Senate Democrats’ campaign arm has launched a new ad calling out Senate Republicans for opposing the border security bill.

And in Ohio, where Brown is squaring off against businessman Bernie Moreno, the state Democratic Party has launched a digital ad highlighting Moreno’s opposition to the bipartisan Senate border deal.

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