California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock said Wednesday he bucked his party to vote against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas because it would cheapen the use of the greatest punishment Congress has.
“It dumbs down the standard of impeachment to a point where it will become a constant fixture in our national life every time the White House is held by one party and the Congress by another,” McClintock told The Times on Wednesday. “That’s exactly what the American founders feared and that’s why they were very careful to specify narrow limits to its use.”
The stalwart conservative from Elk Grove has been known as a constitutional originalist willing to break with his party when he feels it is necessary. That’s included supporting marijuana legalization and opposing the 2017 Republican tax bill because it because it curtailed the popular state and local tax deduction, also known as SALT.
“I’ve learned over the years if you’re going to be an outlier, you better be damn sure you’re right, and I took the time and I’m damn sure I’m right,” McClintock said.
McClintock explained his reasoning in a 10 page memo early Tuesday before the impeachment failed.
In the memo, McClintock said the two articles of impeachment “fail to identify an impeachable crime that Mayorkas has committed. In effect they stretch and distort the Constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law.”
The articles accuse Mayorkas of failing to properly enforce the nation’s immigration laws and breaching public trust. Republicans have accused Mayorkas of ending immigration policies in place during the Trump administration and enacting new immigration policies under President Biden that they say have encouraged more people to come.
The White House has argued that a Cabinet secretary shouldn’t be impeached over a policy disagreement and that the policies in place address immigration within the scope of the budget that Congress approves.
McClintock said new laws or more money won’t help. He said if voters are unhappy with immigration policy they need to give Republicans control of government.
“This problem will not be fixed by passing bills that wont be signed or laws that wont be enforced, or funds that will be used only to admit illegal aliens and not to expel them. And it won’t be fixed by replacing one left wing official with another,” he said.
The 214 to 216 against impeachment was a surprise, caused by a combination of Republican absences on the floor Tuesday, the ‘no’ votes from four Republicans and the surprise appearance of a shoeless, scrubs-wearing Democrat straight from surgery at a local hospital.
McClintock was one of four Republicans to vote no on impeaching Mayorkas. One of the those no votes, by Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), the vice chair of the conference, was a tactical no. If a member of leadership votes no, they can bring the issue back up at a later date.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) stressed Wednesday that while the failure was a setback, he plans to bring the impeachment articles up again.
“Democracy is messy. We live in a time of divided government. We have a razor thin margin here and every vote counts,” Johnson said. “We will pass those articles of impeachment. We’ll do it on the next round.”
One of the other no votes, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), was being pressured to change his mind while the vote was taking place, but McClintock said he wasn’t pressured to change his vote by House leadership or his fellow Republican representatives.
“They all have been very respectful and recognize the position that I’ve taken is in support of our Constitution and the process that makes this government run,” he told The Times.
Still, he got from criticism after the vote from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who brought the articles of impeachment.
“He’s failing his oath of office,” she said, referring to McClintock. “He needs to grow some courage and read the room. The room is our country and the American people are fed up… He needs to do the right thing.”
In a CSPAN interview Wednesday McClintock pushed back.
“Instead of reading the room, I would suggest that maybe she read the Constitution that she took an oath to support and defend,” he said. “The Constitution very clearly lays out the grounds for impeachment. This dumbs down those grounds dramatically and would set a precedent that could be turned against the conservatives on the Supreme Court or a future Republican administration the moment the Democrats take control of the Congress.”