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House GOP focuses on Mayorkas and Hunter Biden instead of spending measures

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Congress has just nine days to avoid a partial government shutdown.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Which is not stopping many House Republicans from focusing on some other things. They talk of impeaching Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, and of holding the president's son, Hunter Biden, in contempt of Congress.

MARTIN: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh is with us now to tell us more about all of this. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So House Speaker Mike Johnson says addressing the situation at the border is a top priority. How does impeaching the top administration official in charge of the border address that?

WALSH: Well, House Republicans really single out Secretary Mayorkas as the person they think is responsible for the record numbers of migrants in recent months have entered the U.S. The House Homeland Security Committee today is starting the process to impeach him. They're having a hearing that focuses on the impact of the border crisis in states like Montana, Missouri, Oklahoma. They're planning more hearings, and they've invited the secretary to testify, but they say he hasn't responded yet.

Politics is obviously a big part of this now that we're in an election year. But both moderate and conservative Republicans I talked to on the Hill say that the border is really a top issue they hear about from voters back home. And a lot of them think Democrats are going to be vulnerable on this issue in the 2024 election.

MARTIN: I think many people remember this - that high crimes or misdemeanors is the standard for impeachment. So what are Republicans saying the high crime or misdemeanor is that Mayorkas has committed?

WALSH: They argue he's failed to address the crisis of the border, and they say he is not enforcing current immigration laws. Some Senate Republicans disagree with that argument. They say it's the president, not the Homeland Security secretary, who's responsible. Mayorkas is just carrying out the president's policies. Even if the House approves articles of impeachment against Mayorkas in the coming weeks, he's not likely to be removed by the Democratic Senate.

MARTIN: So another probe - this one against President Biden. His son, Hunter Biden, offered to testify in public about this because he's central to the House Republican argument. Why are House Republicans moving to hold him in contempt?

WALSH: They say Hunter Biden is in defiance of a subpoena to appear in a closed-door deposition last month. Most interviews in congressional investigations are not in public, at least in the beginning. But Hunter Biden argued Republicans would distort his testimony and said he would only testify at a public hearing. Two panels today are voting on a contempt resolution. Those are likely to be approved along party lines and eventually head to the House floor next.

Democrats argue this Republican impeachment probe is really just a sham, that Republicans haven't provided any clear evidence that President Biden, when he was vice president, benefited financially from any of Hunter Biden's business dealings.

MARTIN: There are a number of conservatives who have been pressuring House Speaker Johnson about a number of things, like spending. Is there some way in which these moves are related to that?

WALSH: You know, it's really unclear if this is going to stave off any conservative criticism. It didn't work for the former House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who moved an impeachment inquiry to try to head off criticism. He was ultimately ousted. We're seeing some conservatives who back this impeachment of Mayorkas and contempt resolution of Hunter Biden still come out and criticize the current speaker over his decision to agree to a spending deal with Democrats over the weekend. They want more policy changes on the border. Remember, it only takes one lawmaker to bring up a resolution to oust the speaker.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.