Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) silence on calling Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas a liar during a hearing led to a pledge for a House Homeland Security Committee more civil in the future — a standard lawmakers may struggle to meet as they prepare for the secretary’s impeachment.
When Mayorkas appeared before Congress this week, Speaker Mark Green (R-Tenn.) accused him of intentional disruption at the border and said his answers to previous questions showed “incompetence.” Rep. Clay Higgins told Mayorkas it was “shameful what you’ve brought to our country.” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Arizona) accused him of being smug.
Many lawmakers have accused him of lying to Congress — an argument that mayorkas and Democrats refute.
But while others accused Mayorkas of being dishonest, Greene explicitly called him a liar on Wednesday, something Green determined violates House rules on questioning someone’s character.
A hearing that began with a fiery opening statement from Green ended with a call to “compound the rhetoric in the country and apparently in committee.”
“We don’t have to despise someone because they don’t agree with us. We don’t have to denigrate someone for not agreeing with us,” he said as he closed the hearing.
It’s a pledge he made after a sidebar with ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who repeatedly described the panel’s speech that day as unbecoming of a committee staffed with such serious skill.
Whether that moment can be reached already seems uncertain for a committee that contains many members eager to impeach Mayorkas — a process that involves holding him personally accountable for the Biden administration’s approach to the border.
Green was reprimanded early in the meeting by Democrats, who pointed to a story in The New York Times reporting that he told donors to “prepare the popcorn” ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.
And Republicans on the panel offered mixed assessments of whether they thought the tone of the hearing was inappropriate.Greene called the decision to silence her for the rest of the hearing unfair, noting that many Republican speakers before her have accused Mayorkas of lying to Congress, even if they did not directly call him a liar.
“All of this also calls into question his character, what they claimed to be the rules. I think silencing me was extremely unfair. And I think that showed the weakness of the Republicans on the committee,” she said.
Rep. Dan Bishop (RN.C.) said calling someone a liar is “bad form,” but it’s justified when it comes to Mayorkas.
“They were pressured into engaging with Secretary Mayorkas on very harsh terms,” he said of some of his colleagues. “And there’s a reason for that.”
Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), however, suggested committee members take a softer approach in their language if not in their stance, pointing to specific Bible passages that guide it.
“We can be steadfast without compromise, and also be gentle and reasonable. And so it hangs on my wall. It’s hidden in my heart. And that’s what I want to be as a lawgiver,” he said, pointing to James 3:17.
“I can disagree with someone and disagree with them wholeheartedly. And that’s what makes our nation great, is that we have heated debates, isn’t it? But I also want people to know that I love them and that the way I see them in my subconscious isn’t out of hate, it’s out of love for them as an individual created in the image of God.
Mayorkas is no stranger to impassioned rhetoric. At one point last year during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, a lawmaker compared him to Benedict Arnold, suggesting he was a traitor to the country. And many senators this week also attacked his character, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asking if he had “an ounce of human compassion” about the border situation.
At an event on Friday, Mayorkas lamented the approach of lawmakers who criticize his character.
“They’re not easy to listen to,” he said of the insults. “They also have ramifications that I want people in leadership positions to consider.”
“I’m basically – basically though – I’m impervious to them. Because I can make mistakes. My decisions may be wrong. Some may disagree with them, but I have 100% confidence in the integrity of my decision,” Mayorkas said in response to a question from The Hill at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Several Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to dismiss the budding GOP impeachment argument.
“They may disagree with him on policy, but it’s not a felony or a felony, and it in no way violates the Constitution and has no grounds for impeachment,” Rep. Daniel Goldman said. (DN.Y.).
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-California) said while many colleagues made similar remarks to Greene, his comments received the most attention, undermining the effort to focus on Mayorkas.
“I think most Republicans say the same thing. I think most Republicans were calling [the] secretary names, putting him down and not allowing him to speak, insinuating he was lying — all of which are untrue,” Garcia told The Hill.
“Republicans are focused – and they were clear – even in the president’s fundraising comments that he had, that he expected today to be a circus, he expected to let today be some sort of made-for-TV event, that’s how they planned it. And I think it backfired on them,” he said on Wednesday.
Green said he was misquoted in the Times article, though he did not specify how, and noted that the impeachment process would ultimately go to the House Judiciary Committee.
The nearly 20-minute delay in challenging Greene’s comments was a source of embarrassment for some committee members. Thompson warned that the exposed division is the wrong signal to opponents who are monitoring internal dynamics in the United States
“Our task as a committee is to protect the motherland from foreign and domestic terrorists,” he said.
“And if they see a committee with this responsibility acting like we did today, you say, ‘Well, look, we don’t have to worry anymore because this is off the rails.
Green told The Hill that going forward, committee members should “just grapple with the problem. You are not attacking the person.
But he sees the problem as a problem on both sides of the aisle, adding that “it is better that neither side violates the rules of decorum”, in a nod to a sign brought by Rep Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) criticizing Greene’s efforts to defund the FBI.
Greene made a similar point, saying Thompson chaired a committee that challenged her character.
“Bennie Thompson used his position, particularly his chairmanship on the Jan. 6 committee, to literally call out names of Republicans every day attacking our character, me in particular,” she said, adding that Democrats called it insurrectionary.
Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) said he appreciated the effort made at the end of the hearing to “get it under control,” but said it remained to be seen if Green could ultimately pull it off.
“It varies from one Republican member to another. I think for some of them, that’s the rationale. They are looking for more quotes, more tweets, more sales, more dollars raised on the internet. They are not going to change,” he said.
“The president and some of the other members, I hope they pull themselves off that precipice and we can really get back to doing a reasonable job.”
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