Under GOP majority, the impeachment circus is already underway

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It was early Saturday morning when House Republicans finally elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy, at which point members left the Capitol for the rest of their weekend. On Monday night, the first full work day of the new Congress, the new GOP majority approved a controversial rules package that will empower lawmakers to get to work in earnest.

A few hours later, a House Republican filed the first impeachment resolution of the year. NBC News reported:

In the first week of the new GOP-led House, a Texas Republican has filed articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Rep. Pat Fallon, in a document filed Monday night, accused Mayorkas of “high crimes and misdemeanors” in his role as homeland security secretary. The articles have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

At the outset, it’s worth emphasizing that the Texas Republican may have filed resolution, but that doesn’t mean impeachment proceedings are imminent. They’re not. Indeed, in every recent Congress, plenty of members have filed impeachment resolutions that have gone entirely ignored.

As of this morning, Fallon’s resolution targeting Mayorkas has picked up a grand total of zero co-sponsors, though that could change at any time.

So why take note of the resolution at all? Because it’s an opening salvo that’s very likely to be part of a larger fight.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, it was a few weeks before the 2022 midterm elections when then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said publicly that no member of the Biden administration deserved to be impeached. It was two weeks after the midterm elections, as the GOP leader scrambled to secure the votes he’d need to become House speaker, when McCarthy’s position changed.

“If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign,” McCarthy told reporters, “House Republicans will investigate every order, every action, and every failure [and] will determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry.”

In theory, the most obvious question in a situation like this is whether the secretary who leads the Department of Homeland Security has actually committed any impeachable offenses. By any sensible measure, the answer is no, as even some GOP senators have conceded.

In practice, however, the most salient question appears to be whether the impeachment crusaders will get their way anyway.

What’s more, it’d be a mistake to think the focus is limited to the DHS secretary. Over the last year, Republicans have raised the specter of impeaching seven members of the Biden administration, including President Joe Biden himself. Such talk among some far-right lawmakers has grown louder in recent weeks.

Writing in The Atlantic last fall, Barton Gellman predicted, “Gradually, and then suddenly, impeachment will become as much a litmus test for Republican House members as the Big Lie.”

The impeachment circus isn’t likely to be especially consequential: Even if the new GOP majority were to pursue such goals, there’s no reason to think the Democratic-led Senate would actually convict anyone from Biden’s team. But for those who still need proof of the Republican Party’s radicalism, look no further than the series of impeachment resolutions we’ll soon see — because this week’s measure may have been the first, but it almost certainly won’t be the last.

Postscript: For those wondering about the historical precedent, only one Cabinet secretary has ever been impeached. In 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached — after leaving office — over alleged bribes. He was later acquitted by the Senate.