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Senate rejects impeachment articles against Mayorkas

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today, U.S. senators took up and then rejected articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAREN GIBSON: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent.

KELLY: Today's developments come nearly two months after House Republicans voted to impeach Mayorkas by one vote. Republicans said Mayorkas ignored immigration law. Democrats said the trial was purely partisan. Joining us from the Capitol is NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Hey there.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: OK, so to catch us up on where things now stand, senators were sworn in as jury members. That was early this afternoon. In a matter of hours, they had killed both articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. So just back up and remind us, what were the actual charges here?

SPRUNT: The House impeachment resolution included two charges - willfully ignoring the law and breaching the public's trust. And as you said, the Senate fairly quickly rejected the two articles largely along partisan lines. One Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted present on the first article.

But this represents a broader fight between Republicans and the Biden administration over immigration policy at the southwest border. Republicans accused Mayorkas of not enforcing immigration laws. They pointed to recent months of data showing record number of crossings at the border. Democrats said this was a policy disagreement and argued impeachment wasn't the way to handle it. Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shortly after the trial ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: We felt very strongly that we had to set a precedent that impeachment should never be used to settle policy disagreements.

KELLY: To all of this, Barbara, Republicans say what?

SPRUNT: Republican senators said that simply dismissing this without any sort of debate set a bad precedent. They argued the Senate should have held a full trial where House impeachment managers could make their case, where Mayorkas' representatives could offer a defense. Here's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the second article was killed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: And by doing what we just did, we have, in effect, ignored the directions of the House, which were to have a trial. It had no evidence, no procedure. This is a day that's not a proud day in the history of the Senate.

SPRUNT: Republicans tried to extend the process today. There were lots of motions being offered and then voted down. Ultimately, the whole thing only lasted a few hours. Afterwards, a DHS spokesperson said the decision, quote, "proves definitively that there was no evidence or constitutional grounds to justify impeachment" against Mayorkas.

KELLY: OK, so we've been talking about what's been happening on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. Let's turn to goings-on in the other chamber. We know the House speaker announced earlier this week moves on foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine. Where does that stand?

SPRUNT: Speaker Johnson has proposed to split up foreign aid into distinct bills - Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. However, there's still concerns over whether Johnson can get enough support to pass the first threshold and rules before those foreign aid bills can come to the floor. Hardliners in his conference have already called on members to tank the package. And, of course, this represents some political concerns for Johnson as well. Some members remain so opposed to him bringing forward a bill on aid to Ukraine at all, and he still has this threat of being ousted hanging over his head. He'll need Democrats to pass the foreign aid bill and maybe need them to save his job.

KELLY: NPR's Barbara Sprunt on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much.

SPRUNT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.