Failed Votes Punctuate Congressional Priorities
February 12, 2024
Bipartisan deals and partisan votes fell apart in the House and Senate last week. While the presidential election is nine months away, politicians are keeping an eye on November as they consider major legislation on pressing issues.
Why it matters: Government funding partially expires on March 1 and fully expires on March 8. It is not yet clear how or when a deal will come together amid turmoil on other policy priorities.
Impeachment Fails in the House
- The House failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by a vote of 214-216 on Tuesday, Feb. 6. All Democrats and 3 GOP members opposed impeachment.
- Rep. Al Green (D-TX) arrived from the hospital wearing scrubs to vote against the bill to bring the total 215-215 and deny its passage. For procedural reasons, Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) switched his vote to a “no” to preserve a motion to reconsider.
- Republicans have been highly critical of Secretary Mayorkas and his department’s handling of the migrant influx at the southern U.S. border. While the vote to impeach was expected to be close, it had been a unifying element among a fractious conference.
What this means: While the setback is a major embarrassment for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Republicans will likely succeed on a reconsideration once Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) returns from cancer treatment.
- If Mayorkas is eventually impeached, the Senate is likely to fall short of the 67 votes needed for a conviction. Democrats view this entirely as a partisan exercise, and some Republican senators have voiced concerns that the impeachment articles are more of a response to bad policy and do not meet the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment.
Israel Aid Fails in the House: After the GOP abandoned a bipartisan border deal (more on that below), Speaker Johnson advanced a standalone bill to provide aid to Israel.
- The Israel aid vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage on the “suspension calendar” by a margin of 250-180.
- The move was partially to force a tough vote for pro-Israel Democrats. The White House wants to bundle the aid for Israel with aid for Ukraine. While 46 Democrats voted with the GOP in favor of the aid package, it did not garner enough support to pass.
Senate Activity: For the past few months, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) had been the lead negotiator on a southern border deal that was to be paired with foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Once the deal was announced, but before any details were shared on the $118.3 billion bill, the border provisions began to lose Republican support.
- Former President Donald Trump quickly condemned the bill, writing on Truth Social that “only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous legislation.” Trump and others have argued that the President should be able to resolve the border crisis without legislation.
- Senate conservatives quickly followed and the GOP conference was largely united in opposing the bipartisan deal, denying the bill the 60 votes it needed to advance.
- Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lankford had applauded the bill as a win for Republicans, albeit a compromise bill with Democrats, as it was endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council.
The big picture: President Trump’s hold over Republican lawmakers is still firm, and electoral politics are in play as November elections get closer.
- In response to the failed border package, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) advanced a standalone $95 billion emergency security bill that would send money to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
- Without the border provisions, 17 Republicans crossed the aisle and advanced the bill with 50 Democrats. Absent a fast-track agreement, the Senate remained town over the weekend for procedural votes to keep the bill advancing. The Senate invoked cloture on Sunday and will proceed to final passage early this week.
- Speaker Johnson opposes putting the bill on the House floor absent border reforms. If considered, the Senate legislation would likely pass the House via a combination of Democrats and Republicans.
The bottom line: Legislating with narrow majorities continues to be complicated. Even the bipartisan tax bill, which resoundingly passed the House, is now facing GOP opposition in the Senate, as some Senators seek to amend the legislation.
Contact David McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions.