House Republicans are eyeing a redo on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week after the conference fell short of penalizing the embattled Cabinet head in a stunning — and embarrassing — fashion.
The House is slated to hold another vote on impeaching Mayorkas on Tuesday, which Republicans expect to be successful, as Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) returns to the Capitol following cancer treatment. If all members are present and vote the same way as last week, and Scalise is supportive of impeachment, the effort will just squeak by.
Also this week, the Senate will continue consideration of the $95.3 billion national security supplemental which, if passed, would put pressure on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to move on aid for Ukraine — a matter that has emerged as a politically polarizing topic for House Republicans. Senators advanced the package Sunday.
Back on the House side, lawmakers may consider legislation related to the nation’s warrantless surveillance powers this week after Congress approved a short-term extension of the authority last year. Reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have been the subject of heated debate on Capitol Hill.
And all eyes will be on New York’s 3rd Congressional District this week as voters head to the polls to select a successor to former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who was expelled from Congress last year. Lawmakers are watching the Long Island race closely to see how it will impact the already slim House GOP majority.
Mayorkas impeachment take 2
House Republicans will try to impeach Mayorkas again Tuesday, their second attempt in one week after the effort failed on the House floor. This time around, however, they are bullish about their odds as Scalise makes his way back to Washington.
The vote to impeach Mayorkas failed in a 214-216 vote last week, after three GOP lawmakers opposed the effort and Scalise did not vote because he was undergoing cancer treatment, buying Mayorkas some more time without having the mark of impeachment on his tenure.
Republicans, however, are optimistic that they will be able to impeach the embattled Cabinet secretary this week: If all lawmakers are present and vote the same way as last week, and Scalise supports impeachment, the final tally would be 216-215, just enough support to penalize Mayorkas.
The three Republicans who opposed impeachment last week — Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.), Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Mike Gallagher (Wis.) — are unlikely to change their votes. Buck told The Hill after the first referendum that he is “not switching my vote” if the articles were to come back to the floor, and Gallagher announced over the weekend that he will not run for reelection this year, untethering him from any political ramifications his vote could come with.
Republicans are accusing Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law,” based on allegations that he violated immigration laws by failing to detain a sufficient number of migrants, as well as “breach of trust,” which accuses him of not carrying out his responsibilities, misleading Congress and obstructing its investigation.
During an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Mayorkas called the GOP’s claims against him “baseless allegations.”
“That’s why I really am not distracted by them and focused on the work of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Asked if he bears responsibility for the situation at the border, Mayorkas put the onus on Congress to approve legislation. A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a border security agreement earlier this month, but conservatives in both chambers quickly squashed it.
“It certainly is a crisis, and, well, we don’t bear responsibility for a broken system, and we’re doing a tremendous amount within that broken system,” he said. “But, fundamentally, fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix this.”
Senate moves ahead with supplemental
The Senate will continue consideration of the $95.3 billion foreign aid package this week following a weekend session that stretched into Super Bowl Sunday.
The chamber advanced the supplemental — which includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies — in a 67-27 vote Sunday, clearing a third procedural hurdle in the past week.
The next vote on the legislation is slated for Monday at 8:30 p.m., unless lawmakers are able to reach a time agreement — which is unlikely as conservatives vow to slow down the process in protest of the foreign aid.
Leadership, however, has still not landed a deal on amendment votes. Republican Senators are demanding votes on border provisions.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Sunday’s successful vote a “significant step” toward passing the measure, and said the bipartisan tally — which included 18 GOP “yes” votes — was a “strong signal that this bill has the support it needs to get through this chamber.”
“Advancing this bill today was precisely the right thing to do,” he added. “Our friends abroad are watching closely how we vote in the upcoming days. Ukrainian fighters are watching. And you can be sure Vladimir Putin is watching the Senate, too.”
Senate passage of the supplemental, which could happen this week, would place significant pressure on the House to move on aid for Ukraine. Support for Kyiv has become a hot-button issue in the House GOP conference, with an increasing number of Republican lawmakers becoming skeptical of additional aid for the embattled U.S. ally.
Johnson would not comment on the Senate supplemental last week, reserving judgment until the upper chamber sends it over.
“Look, we’ll see what the Senate does,” Johnson told reporters. “We’re allowing the process to play out, and we’ll handle it as it is sent over. I have made very clear that you have to address these issues on their own merits.”
Potential House vote on FISA legislation
The House may vote on legislation related to the U.S.’s warrantless surveillance powers this week, according to the schedule from Scalise’s office, bringing the hot-button issue back to the forefront after lawmakers failed to reach a consensus on reforms last year.
It is unclear what FISA-related legislation the chamber will consider.
But it comes after the House and Senate both passed a short-term FISA extension in December — as part of the annual defense policy bill — extending FISA’s Section 702 until the middle of April.
Congress went ahead with a short-term extension after lawmakers were unable to agree on reforms to the warrantless surveillance powers.
In December, the House was slated to vote on competing FISA reform bills — one championed by the House Judiciary Committee, the other the House Intelligence Committee — setting the stage for a floor showdown.
Members on the Judiciary panel had pushed for a requirement that the government receives a warrant before it reviews information on Americans communicating with those abroad who are swept up in the surveillance process. Intelligence Committee lawmakers, however, saw that as weakening the purpose of the surveillance powers and preventing law enforcement from sifting through information it may need to act on immediately.
In a strategy known as “Queen of the Hill,” Johnson planned to send whichever bill garnered more support to the Senate for consideration. But the Speaker nixed those plans before the House Rules Committee was scheduled to consider the pair of bills, and Congress instead moved forward with the short-term extension.
Voters to select Santos successor in NY-3
Voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional District will select a new individual to represent them in Washington this week, filling the seat vacated by Santos following his expulsion in December.
The race — between former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Republican Mazi Pilip — has taken on outsized importance on the national stage because of its implications for the party breakdown in the House.
If Pilip wins the seat, holding it over from the Santos era, the breakdown in the House would be 220-212, meaning the GOP conference could lose three GOP lawmakers on any party-line vote with full attendance and still see success.
But if Suozzi wins his seat back, flipping the district from red to blue, the House split would be 219-213, meaning Republicans can only lose two of their own on party-line votes with full attendance and still get their efforts over the finish line.
An Emerson College Polling/PIX11/The Hill poll released last week showed Suozzi with a narrow lead over Pilip, 50 percent to 47 percent. Three percent of respondents said they were undecided. But when the undecided batch was required to choose a candidate, Suozzi’s lead expanded over Pilip, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Both leads, however, are within the poll’s margin of error.
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