Opinion: The Silly Putty Republicans

Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press / Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks as Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee move to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas over the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Democrats call the proceedings a sham ordered up by Donald Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner, who opposes an emerging bipartisan border security package in the Senate.
Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press / Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks as Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee move to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas over the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. Democrats call the proceedings a sham ordered up by Donald Trump, the GOP presidential front-runner, who opposes an emerging bipartisan border security package in the Senate.

Just when you thought House Republicans couldn't warp the impeachment process any more, here we are, watching them twist and stretch this weighty constitutional provision beyond all recognition — like some grimy wad of Silly Putty pulled from under Marjorie Taylor Greene's sofa.

Opening a half-baked, highly partisan investigation into President Joe Biden was a cheap stunt. But I'd argue that as House Republicans move forward with a floor vote to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, they are poised to drag the chamber down an even more tortured — and potentially damaging — path.

In targeting Mayorkas, Republican lawmakers aren't really bothering to pretend there are "high crimes and misdemeanors" at issue. The essence of their case is that the secretary has done a lousy job dealing with the influx of migrants across the Southern border. They charge that he has repeatedly violated immigration-related laws, fueling the surge, and abused the public trust by lying to Congress about how insecure the border actually is.

Pretty much everyone recognizes that this is not really about Mayorkas — who, as a Cabinet official, is responsible for carrying out the policy preferences of the president. Those policies, obviously, are what House Republicans are riled up about. By putting the secretary through an impeachment inquiry, Donald Trump's congressional team is putting Biden's border record on trial in the midst of a high-stakes presidential contest. It is a tawdry political ploy dressed up as a high-minded policy dispute. But — and I cannot stress this enough — even the highest-minded policy dispute is not grounds for impeachment.

Forget simply spinning together snippets of fact and fiction to create a tall tale of criminal malfeasance. Republicans are preparing to go that extra step of redefining the entire concept of impeachment to fit their political agenda. That, my friends, takes brass.

Let me note that I, too, have been frustrated by the Biden administration's handling of the border mess. It is a gnarly problem — and one that Republicans have repeatedly shown they would rather exploit than productively address. But for too long Biden's White House team was so tied up in knots about how to approach the crisis — a word Mayorkas still can't bring himself to utter — that they bickered and dithered and failed to develop, much less telegraph or execute, a coherent strategy. It wasn't until the flood of migrant arrivals started straining Democratic cities such as New York and Washington that the president's people seemed to grasp the depth of the challenge and public concern.

But impeachment? Come on, fellas. It doesn't take a constitutional expert to call out that hogwash.

Republican House members aren't idiots. (Well, most aren't.) They know that, if they vote to impeach, plenty of people will recognize the move as the crass political ploy it is. The more the American people come to see impeachment as just another base political weapon, the less seriously they will take it — and, by extension, the less seriously they will regard Trump's inglorious achievement as the only U.S. president to be impeached twice.

If everyone is tarnished by impeachment, then nobody is.

Not all Republicans are eager to hurl themselves into this dumpster fire. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado has declared himself a solid "no" on impeaching Mayorkas. Pursuing such a course would be a move "in the wrong direction" that could damage Congress as an institution, he fretted to The New York Times last week.

If it comes to pass, a Mayorkas impeachment — like the Biden impeachment — is expected to belly flop in the Senate. As it should.

Wouldn't it be wiser to stop the madness now and just jam that Silly Putty right back under Greene's sofa?

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