Opinion: Congress gets ready for an impeachment showdown

After delaying for almost two months, Republicans in the U.S. House will finally send a pair of impeachment charges to the Senate next week against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, triggering the first impeachment trial of a Cabinet member since 1876.

But it may not be much of a trial.

While Republicans would love to use the proceedings as an election-year forum to attack Mayorkas and President Biden over illegal immigration, Democrats don’t want a political show — and they could move swiftly to dismiss the charges.

That’s left Republicans fuming.

“We call upon you to fulfill your constitutional obligation to hold this trial,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told Senate Democrats in a letter.

No matter what, everyone on Capitol Hill knows the Senate won’t convict Mayorkas and remove him from office.

“An impeachment trial might be great politics, but it’s not the remedy for bad policy,” said U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who argued a trial ‘would set a terrible constitutional precedent.’

“It will be dead on arrival when it comes over,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

The Mayorkas case would be argued before Senators by eleven House prosecutors — known as ‘managers’ — a team which includes U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome.

“The Senate must hold the trial for Mayorkas,” the Georgia Republican declared. “The invasion at our Southern border is intentional.”

But just the idea of allowing Greene to hold forth on the Senate floor might be enough to persuade any reluctant Democrat to end the Mayorkas trial quickly.

Before Easter, several GOP Senators laid out various plans for a trial, proposing up to 32 hours of opening arguments over four days — something Democrats certainly don’t want.

One procedural note: in an impeachment trial, some Senate rules don’t apply — like the filibuster. So, Democrats could theoretically dismiss the charges with a simple majority, even before the evidence is presented.

In other words, if all Democrats stick together, the trial goes away fast.

“A motion to table the articles without addressing them on the merits is not in order,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, though his argument may fail on the Senate floor.

But let’s be honest — even if Democrats quickly dispose of the Mayorkas trial, the issue of illegal immigration isn’t going away this election year.

Former President Donald Trump has again made border security a central part of his campaign for the White House, and Democrats know very well that it’s a weak point for President Biden.

That is one main reason Democrats will try to keep a Mayorkas trial from turning into a GOP campaign advertisement.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com