House GOP kicks off a new year of dysfunction with another impeachment

Trust the Republican House to make a difficult situation exponentially worse. Not content with establishing a new record of dysfunction and ineffectiveness in the first session of the 118th Congress, they’re kicking off the second year with another waste of precious time: a second baseless impeachment, this time against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. It’s basically the first thing on their agenda when they return to work next week, with the first hearing scheduled for Jan. 10.

Never mind that the first deadline for a partial government shutdown is Jan. 19, and the House has made zero progress in meeting it. Instead, Republican leadership has chosen to start impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas for his “decision-making and refusal to enforce the laws passed by Congress, and that his failure to fulfill his oath of office demands accountability,” according to Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green of Tennessee.

Mayorkas’ team at DHS slapped back. “The House majority is wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars pursuing a baseless political exercise that has been rejected by members of both parties and already failed on a bipartisan vote,” spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg said in a statement.

The White House was equally scathing. “Actions speak louder than words,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. “House Republicans’ anti-border security record is defined by attempting to cut Customs and Border Protection personnel, opposing President Biden’s record-breaking border security funding, and refusing to take up the President’s supplemental funding request.”

“After voting in 2023 to eliminate over 2,000 Border Patrol agents and erode our capacity to seize fentanyl earlier in 2023, House Republicans left Washington in mid-December even as President Biden and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate remained to forge ahead on a bipartisan agreement,” Bates said.

That Senate effort—which aims to find a compromise on immigration that will get enough Republican votes to allow aid to Ukraine to continue—is ongoing, though its success is far from certain since the House GOP is working to poison it. Senate Republicans will point to the House GOP’s opposition to justify their refusal to support any agreement. To that end, House Speaker Mike Johnson is spearheading another stunt, leading a delegation of about 60 Republican House members to visit a border facility near Eagle Pass, Texas, on Wednesday.

Johnson’s trip is fueling the hard-line stance on immigration, but he’s also painting himself into a corner with the House extremists. Catering to the hard right on immigration is extremely unlikely to help him avert a government shutdown—since a government shutdown is what the Freedom Caucus wants.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, a prominent member of the caucus, made that clear enough in a letter Tuesday, writing that he was skipping this trip to the border because it is not enough. “Our people—law enforcement, ranchers, local leaders—are tired of meetings, speeches, and press conferences,” he said, adding that the House should be “withholding funding for the vast majority of the federal government until it performs its basic duty to defend the borders of a supposedly sovereign nation.”

The more Johnson bends to extremists on immigration, the more emboldened they will be to force a shutdown over the issue. He’s setting himself up for failure, for the very same trap that every Republican speaker since John Boehner has fallen into. Either Johnson bucks the Freedom Caucus and risks being ousted like former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, or he allows a disastrous shutdown.

Meanwhile, there’s reality: In the past week, illegal border crossings have decreased. But reality isn’t likely to make any difference to Republicans; it rarely does.

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