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Historic Vote Elects Rep. Ben Cline As Impeachment Manager for Mayorkas Trial

Knowing human nature to be flawed, the Constitution’s framers created an impeachment process to remove failed officials, but made the final removal step difficult. Many mistakenly believe “impeachment” equals “removal from office,” but that is not true. Impeachment is the first step that requires a simple majority in the House of Representatives. Then, the accused goes to a trial in the Senate where two-thirds must vote for removal from office.

To show how rare this process is, only three presidents have been impeached but never removed from office: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump (twice).

In an historic vote on Feb. 13, the GOP-led House voted to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by a narrowest-possible 214-213 margin. All Democrats voted no and all Republicans except three voted yes.

All five Republicans representing districts in Virginia voted for impeachment, including the three representing Central and Western regions: Reps. Morgan Griffith (VA9), Ben Cline (VA6), and Bob Good (VA5).

The vote came one week after a humiliating Feb. 6 failure for House Republicans. Their first impeachment was a 215-215 tie, until one Republican voted no in order to let the measure be voted on again later. Thus, the impeachment initially failed 214-216.  The first effort failed because Republican Steve Scalise could not vote yes by being absent for cancer treatments, and unbeknownst to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), one Texas Democrat bedridden in the hospital was brought back for his no vote.

With Scalise’s return, the impeachment vote succeeded on Feb. 13.

The Biden administration has branded the effort as “baseless” and “unprecedented and unconstitutional.”

DHS spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg blasted the Feb. 13 vote claiming, “House Republicans will be remembered by history for trampling on the Constitution for political gain rather than working to solve the serious challenges at our border.”

This is only the second time in US history for a cabinet secretary to be impeached. In 1876, the year of the USA’s Centennial, President U.S. Grant’s Secretary of War, William Belknap, was impeached for corruption and kickbacks. However, Belknap soon resigned and was not found guilty by two–thirds of the Senate.

At the time of an impeachment, the House Speaker appoints “Impeachment Managers” to serve as prosecutors against the accused in the trial where the Senators act as jury.

Johnson has named 11 such managers, including Rep. Ben Cline, a professional attorney.

On Feb. 6, the office of Rep. Ben Cline released this statement. “Today, Speaker Johnson announced that he has selected Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) as one of the eleven impeachment managers who will present the House’s case in a Senate trial against Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. If the House votes to impeach Mayorkas later […], Rep. Cline will join his fellow managers in delivering the Articles to the Senate and should the Senate act on these Articles, he will make the case to the Senate to remove Mayorkas from office.”

“I am honored that Speaker Johnson has asked me to serve as an impeachment manager and help defend our nation during this national security crisis,” Rep. Cline said. “Under the neglect of President Biden and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, America has seen the worst border crisis in history – turning every community, including Virginia’s Sixth District, into a border community. Secretary Mayorkas has purposely and knowingly disregarded the rights and security of this country’s citizens, and instead uses every tool at his disposal to incentivize illegal activity across our border. From halting construction of the border wall to not enforcing immigration laws enacted by Congress, Secretary Mayorkas has failed to protect the southern border and uphold the rule of law. Under Secretary Mayorkas, the United States has suffered a sharp rise in deadly overdoses from fentanyl, an increase in human trafficking, and record levels of illegal immigration. It is long past time we hold Secretary Mayorkas accountable for his dereliction of duty and restore our Nation’s rule of law and sovereignty. We must impeach Secretary Mayorkas. The American people deserve better.”  

The case now moves to the US Senate for a trial. With a Democrat majority, Mayorkas’ removal from office is probably impossible, since a two-thirds majority is required. However, with open borders and mass illegal immigration growing as an election-year issue, a vote to acquit or even a refusal to start a trial could be a potential hindrance for Sen. Tim Kaine (D) who is running for re-election as Pres. Biden’s approval numbers continue to sag across Virginia and the nation.

Kaine frequently touts his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee as proof that he is “pro-military” and “pro-national security.” However, if he is seen as turning a blind eye to the border invasion of illegal aliens that could risk angering a large part of the Virginia electorate in his year for re-election.

On the other hand, even some upset by the open border see the Mayorkas impeachment as a sham and waste of time. They point out that Mayorkas is only a cabinet secretary doing the bidding of the president, and that if the GOP were truly interested in securing the border, they would actually seek to impeach President Biden.

Go Deeper: Learn about the 1876 Impeachment and Trial of Secretary of War Belknap here.

Updated 5:55 pm Feb. 19, 2024

–Scott Dreyer


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