Broken Congress: It can’t fix the border, fund allies or impeach Mayorkas as GOP revolts.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas was not, in fact, impeached by the House.
The broken US. Congress failed in stunning fashion this week as Republicans in both the House and the Senate revolted in new and unimaginable ways against their own agenda. Lawmakers will try to do it all over again — as soon as next week.
“This is the mob rule right now in Congress — and I’m ready for mob rule. … But it’s not a way to govern,” said Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana.
Just 48 hours put on display a spectacular level of dysfunction even for a Congress that has already set new standards for infighting, disruption and chaos after last year’s historic election, then ouster, of the Republican House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy.
It shows how deeply the Republican Party, under Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, is by choice or by force, turning away from its traditional role as a working partner in the U.S.’s two-party system to a new one that is rooted in Donald Trump’s vision of the GOP.
In dramatic back-to-back scenes this week — a closed-door shouting match of Senate Republicans testing McConnell’s slipping hold on power late Monday and Speaker Johnson presiding glumly over failures in the chamber he could not control Tuesday — provided new entries for the history books.
“Politics used to be the art of the possible. Now it’s the art of the impossible,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee.
“Let’s put forward proposals that can’t possibly pass — so we can say to our respective bases, Look how I’m fighting for you,” said Romney, explaining the current mindset. “We’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.”
The next steps are highly uncertain as an emboldened generation of hard-right lawmakers allied with Trump are energized by the disruption, eager to carry on with their emerging agenda despite the GOP’s slim majority in the House that forces Johnson to partner with Democrats to have any hope on most big issues.
The House is expected to try again to impeach Mayorkas, possibly next week, if Republicans can boost their numbers over what was essentially a tie vote Tuesday.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who led the Mayorkas impeachment drive, is determined to see it to the finish as Republicans rebuke the Biden administration’s handling of a historic surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Crazy time,” said Rep. Hal Rogers who, at 86, is dean of the House as its senior most member, as he returned to Washington to vote for impeaching Mayorkas after suffering injuries in a car crash.
“I was hoping for something better,” he acknowledged.
Mayorkas, facing two articles of impeachment over allegations of refusing to abide by immigration laws and breaching the public trust, called the charges baseless.
“I’m focused on the work,” Mayorkas said at a press conference in Las Vegas, where his department is coordinating security around the Super Bowl.
Republicans lost the impeachment by one vote not only because three Republican lawmakers dissented, but also because one Democrat, Rep. Al Green of Texas, surprised colleagues by leaving his hospital bed where he had undergone surgery to come vote, tipping the outcome.
It’s the kind of miscount many longtime Congress watchers said would have rarely, if ever, happened under the laser-focused leadership of Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic speaker.
To up their tally, House Republicans are counting on either winning a special election to replace the ousted GOP Rep. George Santos in New York or waiting for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who has been receiving cancer treatment, to return to Washington.
“They’re unable to rally behind anything but extremism,” said Democratic Whip Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.
In the Senate, McConnell faced a separate revolt over the border security package he had reluctantly agreed to pursue as a way to appease hard-right demands to link national security aid for Ukraine to an almost politically impossible compromise on immigration.
As soon as the bipartisan package was unveiled it encountered fierce blowback from fellow Republicans led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and others, forcing McConnell into an abrupt about-face to abandon the effort.
It was the second time McConnell, who has championed the national security aid for Ukraine, was forced to retreat, as he did last fall when GOP senators rejected his advice and refused more overseas aid.
“Time to disband The Firm,” Lee wrote on social media, a mocking reference to McConnell and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republicans shelved the border package, filibustering, on a party-line vote Wednesday, though senators did begin discussing a smaller $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and allies. Final passage, though, is uncertain.
Trump, the former president and now frontrunner for the party’s nomination, orchestrated from afar, celebrating the collapse of the border package as the death of “dumbest bill I’ve ever seen” and disparaging McConnell, who is one of the few remaining GOP leaders yet to endorse his bid to return to the White House.
The two men have not spoken since December 2020, once it was clear Biden won the presidential race that Trump had lost. In unusually scathing speech after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, McConnell laid blame for the insurrection squarely on Trump for spinning “wild” claims of a stolen election, distancing the two sometime allies.
Now, without naming Trump, McConnell says he will support the Republican Party’s eventual nominee for president, though it’s clear the two have a deteriorated relationship.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state implores her colleagues to understand the stakes, criticizing Republicans for realigning with Trump after “we all had to flee or be barricaded ourselves into our offices” during the Jan. 6 attack by his mob of supporters.
“What is the point of being a senator if you let Donald Trump make all of the decisions for you?”
First-term Republican Rep. Cory Mills of Florida acknowledged the week’s setbacks were not why he came to Congress after a military career.
But he said as he left the Capitol on Wednesday, “We’re definitely seeing a shift in politics.”
A Trump supporter, Mills explained how this Congress “went from kind of the old guard” to more of an “American First agenda” he said, referring to Trump’s approach.
“We’re not done fighting,” Mills said. “I think next week, there’ll be a whole new thing.”
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Stephen Groves, Mary Clare Jalonick and Rebecca Santana in Washington and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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