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Republicans launch effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Here in the U.S., it's just days away from a government shutdown deadline. House Republicans remain divided on a new fiscal year spending plan despite a bipartisan agreement by top leaders. They are more united on a different mission - going after people in President Biden's orbit. Here's House Speaker Mike Johnson.

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MIKE JOHNSON: We have very difficult challenges, but we're going to advance the ball. We're going to advance our conservative principles, and we are going to demonstrate that we can govern well.

SHAPIRO: Today, Republicans launched their effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. They held a separate hearing to hold Biden's son, Hunter, in contempt. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is here with details. Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with Secretary Mayorkas and the situation at the border. What do Republicans hope to achieve by impeaching him?

GRISALES: Well, we should note this is just the start of this process. The House Homeland Security (ph) held their first impeachment hearing focused on Mayorkas. And for Republicans, this is key. This centers on an issue that they want to keep in the spotlight, drawing attention to what they argue are failures by the Biden administration. And so a lot of this is driven by politics. They want Mayorkas to take the blame for these issues on the U.S.-Mexico border and the challenges addressing immigration. Now, we don't expect him to be actually removed from office as part of this process because an impeachment would be sent to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats who do not think this will go anywhere in that chamber.

SHAPIRO: While Republicans in the House are focused on that, the government funding deadline is just days away, and the GOP caucus is fighting about spending bills. Can you catch us up on where things stand there?

GRISALES: Yes. Republican members tell me there's a lot of dissatisfaction, especially among the hard-right wing of the conference, which is opposed to this top-line spending deal recently reached by Speaker Johnson and top Democrats. One of those members, Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky, told me that those opposed will be causing havoc on the House floor - for example, by forcing the failure of a procedural vote on the floor today and causing the cancellation of more votes. I talked to Massie while this vote was failing.

THOMAS MASSIE: These are the kind of things the speaker gets into when he gets in front of his skis and doesn't check back in with the conference and negotiates for us something that we never agreed to.

GRISALES: And we know, over the weekend, leaders announced this top-line deal for the 2024 fiscal year. It's largely in line with the deal struck previously by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden, and it was largely tied to what eventually cost McCarthy his job.

SHAPIRO: Does that imply we're again looking at the possibility of a Republican speaker being removed by members of his own party?

GRISALES: Well, I talked to another member about this - Republican Tim Burchett of Tennessee. He was one of those who voted to oust McCarthy. He says there's not much of an appetite right now to relive this nightmare last year, where they took weeks to pick a replacement. And he referred to it as, quote, "loose talk" for now. But we do know that members opposed to this spending deal will continue to show their objections in different ways for now.

SHAPIRO: In another part of the program, we're going to hear about the Hunter Biden inquiry, so let me end by just asking you what the chances are that, despite the bipartisan funding agreement, the government might still shut down?

GRISALES: That is possible. Johnson, today, told reporters he isn't ruling anything out as far as another temporary spending bill. That's what we're under right now in terms of the government staying open. The first of two shutdown deadlines, however, is going to approach January 19, so that only leaves nine days to hammer out a final, comprehensive deal. And with all the infighting we're seeing with House Republicans, that means they're going to need plenty of time to come to a final deal that will pass both chambers.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.