GOP squeezes Dems on Mayorkas: ‘I would not want to be them’


Senate Republicans are trying to orchestrate the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to exact maximum political pain on their top Democratic targets in November — especially Sens. Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown.

Democrats are signaling they’ll quickly shut down the Mayorkas trial once they receive impeachment articles from the House. Given the anti-Mayorkas fervor among Republicans — which on Tuesday resulted in the House delaying the trial until next week to heighten focus on the vote — Democrats will need near-unanimity to dismiss it.

That puts vulnerable Democrats like Tester (Mont.) and Brown (Ohio) in an unenviable bind, and some of their purple-state colleagues will also feel the heat. The upper chamber’s campaign map this year already favors Republicans tremendously, and the GOP wants to exploit Democrats’ vulnerabilities on the topic as migration surges to take back the chamber.

Democrats are hoping to quickly move past the trial and remind voters that their GOP colleagues tanked a border deal earlier this year. But until then, Republicans are looking forward to making them squirm — despite the fact that several Republicans previously panned the House’s impeachment efforts.

“Not dealing with it in some way runs the risk of putting a lot of their incumbent Democrats and probably, for that matter, candidates in other races around the country, in a really difficult position,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “I would not want to be them, defending that vote.”

Thune pointed to Brown and Tester specifically. Illustrating that point, neither would explicitly commit as of Tuesday to supporting a motion to table or dismiss the trial, which would effectively end proceedings off the bat. After saying in February he’d vote to scuttle the trial, Tester said this week he is waiting to see the actual articles of impeachment. Brown said it’s “likely” he’d support dismissal but did not go further.

Still, both of them stressed their decision would not be based on political risks. Brown called the issue a “distraction” and insisted he cared little about the GOP “playing politics.” Tester said Republicans using the vote against him was “not a damn concern, honestly.”

“They’re going to say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it. They’re already doing it,” Tester added.

The third-term Montanan is already facing ads back home hitting him for his record on immigration. And there’s almost certainly more to come.

Sen. Sherrod Brown said the GOP's decision to pursue the Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment but not to pass the bipartisan border deal earlier this year

“Any senators who vote against holding an impeachment trial for Secretary Mayorkas are absolving Mayorkas and the Biden Administration of their roles in creating this border crisis, and we will hold them accountable in November,” said Torunn Sinclair, a spokesperson for Senate Leadership Fund, the main GOP Senate super PAC.

In a closed-door lunch on Tuesday, Senate Republicans discussed how to best highlight Democrats’ rejection of the Mayorkas impeachment trial. They reasoned that delivering articles on Wednesday would potentially allow Democrats to bury the trial on Thursday night and quickly move on, according to an attendee. They also discussed Tester’s new comments about reviewing the articles after vowing to dismiss them earlier this year, with some arguing the GOP’s pressure tactics are working.

Ultimately, Republican senators and Speaker Mike Johnson agreed to change course and start the proceedings on Monday. And Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) made clear how he believes the politics will play out: “My hope is that the good people in Montana and Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania — that they hold their senators accountable this November.”

It’s not the first time surging migration has come to the forefront of national politics in recent months. As Biden’s numbers on immigration sagged last year, he and his party ended up signing off on stricter new immigration and border policies in a deal with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Yet after months of negotiations, prompted by Republicans who demanded border changes be tied to further Ukraine aid, GOP senators overwhelmingly blocked an agreement in February. They did so after former President Donald Trump announced his opposition to the deal.

As Tester has faced the GOP’s immigration attacks, he’s called on Democratic leaders to force Republicans to vote again on the bipartisan border deal. He argued Republicans’ impeachment strategy is an attempt to shift blame for that bill’s failure. Similarly, Brown said the GOP’s decision to pursue the impeachment but not to pass the bipartisan border deal earlier this year “speaks volumes.”

“Border is the No. 1 issue for the American people,” Sen. Steve Daines told POLITICO of how the Mayorkas trial outcomes may reflect on Democrats. “So they'll be paying very close attention to what happens with Mayorkas.”

Some Senate Republicans have also independently cast doubt on the merits of impeaching Mayorkas in the first place, though some of those senators have signaled they’ll likely vote against dismissing the trial. The impeachment took two tries to pass in the House due to the opposition of three GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, insisted the impeachment effort “is just political theater” and said he was confident it would not harm his incumbents. Still, they are moving ahead cautiously on border issues.

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), another vulnerable incumbent, also did not commit to supporting a motion to dismiss this month. But she echoed Tester and Brown’s sentiment, charging Republicans with politicizing the border and trying to distract from the border package failure.

“They are clearly going to use all this as a political football. They are not thinking about how we address the crisis on our border,” she said.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is expected to vote to shut down the trial. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) did not directly answer a question on whether or not he’d support a motion to dismiss the trial. He did, however, say that “the Senate should be spending time passing the bipartisan border deal” and that he has “no doubt at all” that Republicans will try to use the outcome against him and other vulnerable Democrats.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, effectively confirmed Democrats’ predictions.

“Border is the No. 1 issue for the American people,” Daines told POLITICO of how the trial outcomes may reflect on Democrats. “So they’ll be paying very close attention to what happens with Mayorkas.”

Of course, Senate Democrats could proceed with a trial if they wanted to. But doing so could take days, if not weeks, and would put even more of a spotlight on the contentious issue of immigration. The entire Mayorkas impeachment effort amounts to a GOP rebuke of how the Biden administration has handled the southern border. Democrats aren’t eager to debate the administration’s success.

And Republicans know it.

“It would be a lot of talk about the border,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “They want to change the subject. So I get it. They want to move on.”

Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.



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