WASHINGTON ― Tuesday was a deeply embarrassing day for Republicans in the U.S. Capitol.
House Speaker Mike Johnson’s big push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed spectacularly following high drama and yelling on the House floor, falling short by just one vote. Minutes later, a Republican bill to send U.S. aid to Israel went down in flames due to bipartisan opposition. Earlier in the day, Senate Republicans officially killed the border security package the party had cried out for only months earlier.
“I would have thought they would have known [the whip count]. They’re good on the other side of that,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, told reporters after the impeachment vote failed. “Is it that hard?”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) all but said Democrats outsmarted Republicans by not telling them how many of their members would be present for the impeachment vote. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) had been absent for medical reasons but unexpectedly appeared Tuesday for the vote. His vote made all the difference in tanking the impeachment effort.
“They hid one of their members,” Greene told reporters after the vote. “Waiting till the last minute, watching to see our votes, trying to throw us off on the numbers that we had versus the numbers they had. So, yeah, that was a strategy in play tonight.”
The trio of failures, just over a month into a presidential election year where they hope to project competence and win over swing voters disappointed in President Joe Biden, combines to paint a grim picture of the GOP’s ability to govern. Instead, the party is showing voters a House leader who can’t count votes, a Senate leader who is incapable of persuading his conference and a party that is both unwilling to compromise with Democrats and unable to wrangle votes for its own agenda.
“There used to be a difference between the Senate Republican caucus and the House Republican caucus,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters earlier in the day. “There is no difference. They are just as dysfunctional. They are just as tied to President Trump.”
The Mayorkas vote was the real surprise, a nail-biter of a vote that was tied at 215 to 215 for several minutes as Republicans tried to persuade party holdouts to join them. Everyone knew it would be close, but GOP leaders were already struggling to hold their party together before they realized that Al Green was present.
“Yeah, they may have been caught a little bit off-guard,” Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) said of Republican leaders botching the impeachment vote count. “Gotta take your hat off to the Democratic leadership for doing that.”
“Politics used to be the art of the possible. Now it’s the art of the impossible.”
The final vote was 216-214, as one Republican switched to allow a potential revote once the GOP was sure it had enough votes. A Johnson spokesperson later tweeted that they would indeed try again “when we have the votes for passage.” They’re counting on the return of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who has been receiving cancer treatments, to be the extra vote they need to impeach Mayorkas.
The tied impeachment vote even had some members of the GOP caucus questioning one of the few congressional successes of recent months, the ouster of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), the federally indicted serial fabulist. The presence of either Santos or former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who resigned from his seat rather than remain a rank-and-file member, likely would’ve given the GOP enough votes to impeach Mayorkas.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) said Republicans have to ask themselves if “expelling George Santos was actually worth it,” according to a reporter for The Independent.
Santos, meanwhile, taunted the GOP from the sidelines.
“Miss me yet?” Santos tweeted, along with a photo of the tied impeachment vote in the House.
The failure of the Israel aid package, which was backed strongly by Johnson, was less surprising but added to the chaos nevertheless. It was brought to a vote under a procedure that required it to garner a two-thirds supermajority instead of a simple majority. With Biden threatening a veto of the bill Monday night, there was no incentive for even pro-Israel Democrats to cross over.
Republicans could bring up the bill for a regular vote as early as next week, but they face internal opposition from hard-liners who don’t like the package’s $17.6 billion cost.
Over in the Senate, Republicans officially announced plans to filibuster bipartisan compromise legislation seeking to secure the U.S.-Mexico border after a right-wing backlash, including attacks from former President Donald Trump. The bill included reforms that the GOP demanded months ago to address what the party called a national security crisis: the wave of migrants on the border
But now, with an agreement sealed by conservative Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and endorsed by the U.S. Border Patrol union, many Republicans maintain that it’s better to wait until after the November election to secure the border, when Trump might be back in the White House.
Murphy, who spent months crafting the deal with Lankford, vented about their reversal as soon as the bill was unveiled.
“How can you trust any Republicans right now?” Murphy said. “They told us what to do. We followed their instructions to the letter. And then they pulled the rug out from under us in 24 hours.”
Even some GOP senators expressed disappointment with their party’s decision to abandon the border deal, which put into serious jeopardy U.S. support for both Israel and Ukraine. Without the provisions toughening border enforcement, it’s not clear how either foreign aid package passes in Congress.
“Politics used to be the art of the possible. Now it’s the art of the impossible,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) lamented. “Meaning, 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. These are things that will never happen, but I’m fighting for you.’”
He added: “We’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another GOP centrist who supported the border deal, observed, “Congress is getting really good at failing well.”