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EDITORIAL: House, Senate play politics on impeachment

Democrats have a tendency to elevate short-term political gain above more comprehensive strategies — sometimes with results they later regret. Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” on federal judges comes to mind as an example of a gambit that came back to backfire spectacularly on the party.

Are they on the verge of doing the same thing again?

The House in February voted 214-213 to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the Biden administration’s homeland security secretary, for refusing to enforce border laws and breaching the public trust. It’s a further example of how both parties have politicized impeachment, which should be rare and concern serious offenses. House Republicans took after Mr. Mayorkas in part as payback for the endless hearings House Democrats launched against Donald Trump during his time in the Oval Office.

Not that there isn’t a problem. Mr. Mayorkas has presided over a disaster at our southern border. But the charges don’t outline any criminal actions or evidence of corruption. The problem is at the feet of President Joe Biden, not the secretary who reports to him. Further, the House action was for show, given that Democrats control the Senate, where the charges are to be heard. There is no appetite for removing Mr. Mayorkas even among Republicans in the upper chamber. A conviction would require 67 votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, has publicly ridiculed the impeachment, calling it a “sham” and “a new low for House Republicans.” He and his fellow travelers are clearly worried about the ramifications of holding a trial in coming weeks. The president’s approval rating on the immigration issue is abysmal.

House Republicans, of course, see an opportunity to exploit that dissatisfaction for political gain.

Yet Sen. Schumer now threatens to table or hold a dismissal vote without considering the evidence. There is nothing constitutionally impermissible about proceeding along those lines. Yet it would be a mistake and set another precedent that Democrats might eventually regret. If House Democrats were again to impeach a President Trump — and if he wins re-election in November it will only be a matter of time — they would howl with indignation if a GOP Senate immediately dismissed the charges.

“To table articles of impeachment without ever hearing a single argument or reviewing a piece of evidence,” Speaker Mike Johnson said, “would be a violation of our constitutional order and an affront to the American people whom we all serve.”

At the very least, the Senate should allow the House impeachment managers to present the case. That would be in line with historical precedent. Then Republicans and Democrats in Congress should consider turning their attention to more substantive issues.

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