Hospitalized Texas Democrat Al Green rushed to Capitol for impeachment vote in scrubs, saving Mayorkas

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the opening of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue at the State Department in Washington on Oct. 13, 2022. (Reuters/Michael A. Mccoy, Reuters/Michael A. Mccoy)

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Recommended Videos

WASHINGTON — All of Texas’ House Republicans voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for failing to secure the southern border, but the House fell short of passing the historic resolution on Tuesday after Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, rushed to the House from the hospital where he was recovering from abdominal surgery to vote no.

The impeachment failed on a 216-214 vote. Four Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the impeachment. The House has not impeached a member of a president’s cabinet in nearly 150 years.

The vote was extremely close, with the outcome unknown until the end of the vote. U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House select committee on China, voted against the resolution. Numerous Republicans, including Texan Reps. Michael McCaul and Jodey Arrington were seen circling around Gallagher as he held out on his vote.

U.S. Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Tom McClintock of California also voted against impeachment. U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, ended up changing his vote to a no at the last minute, tanking the vote but allowing Republicans to bring it up again in the future.

House Republicans were counting on Green to be absent. But he arrived just in time in a wheelchair and scrubs to give Democrats enough votes to kill the impeachment.

“I was determined to cast the vote long before — I had no idea how close it was going to be,” Green said in an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday night from his hospital bed after the vote. “I didn’t come assuming that my vote was going to make a difference. I came because it was personal.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who launched Tuesday's impeachment effort, said Democrats had plotted to make Republicans miscount the number of votes they needed.

"They hid one of their members, waiting to the last minute watching to see our votes, trying to throw us off on the numbers that we had versus the numbers that they had. So yeah, that was a strategy at play tonight," Greene told reporters after the vote.

Texas House Republicans have been among those leading the charge of the yearlong impeachment effort. Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Sherman, introduced articles of impeachment last January, and four Texas Republicans sit on the House Homeland Security Committee that advanced the impeachment to the House floor last week.

Two members of that committee – former committee chair McCaul and Rep. August Pfluger, R-San Angelo – had been selected by Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana to serve as impeachment managers. They would have been part of the team that presented the case against the secretary to the Senate for trial.

Greene, a Georgia Republican, introduced the articles of impeachment that failed Tuesday afternoon. Fallon said in a text message that he expects the House Republican conference to make another go at impeaching Mayorkas.

“With a tight majority these things happen,” Fallon wrote. “Still doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed and deeply disappointed and angry. But I do think he will be impeached within the next month or two.”

Even if the impeachment had passed, Republicans faced near impossible odds of actually convicting Mayorkas. Two-thirds of the Senate would have been needed to convict and remove Mayorkas from office — exceedingly unlikely in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Both Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have said they would vote to remove Mayorkas.

The vote to oust Mayorkas is the latest GOP effort to attack the Biden administration over the border crisis, as illegal crossings have reached record highs. While a border security bill had been a top issue for Republicans, and even some Texas Democrats, Republicans in both chambers have taken a sharp U-turn, putting the skids on a Senate border bill they say doesn’t go far enough, and amid former President Donald Trump’s stark opposition to the legislation.

Cruz, who called the bipartisan bill “terrible,” chalked up the legislation to political fodder for Democrats. Trump has also labeled the bill a “gift” to Democrats.

“Every once in a while we have some good news. The good news is this bill is dead,” Cruz told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.

Democrats denounced the impeachment as a cynical political ploy and a weaponization of impeachment. Impeachment is historically used as an extraordinary measure but has become a common rallying cry among Republicans against Democratic targets, including Mayorkas and President Joe Biden.

Three former Homeland Security secretaries wrote to Johnson on Tuesday imploring against impeachment, saying doing so would jeopardize critical national security interests. Former secretaries Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, who both served under former President Barack Obama, and secretary Michael Chertoff, who served under former President George W. Bush, signed the letter.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the impeachment vote was a distraction from the House Republican Conference’s inability to pass legislation into law since taking the majority. Castro served as an impeachment manager in Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“When you have no record of accomplishment to run on, nothing on education, nothing on health care, nothing about creating jobs, nothing on the environment, nothing about keeping people safe, this is what you do. You put on a circus. And that's why we're here today,” Castro said from the House floor before the vote.

We can’t wait to welcome you to downtown Austin Sept. 5-7 for the 2024 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us at Texas’ breakout politics and policy event as we dig into the 2024 elections, state and national politics, the state of democracy, and so much more. When tickets go on sale this spring, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.

Recommended Videos