Alaska senators split on Mayorkas impeachment. Murkowski leery of wasting Senate time on ‘messaging.’

three people stand outdoors
Alaska’s congressional delegation spoke to visiting students outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan were demonstrating the hand signals they use to vote in the Senate chamber. Their gestures happen to reflect how they feel about a Senate trial on the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Republicans in the U.S. House plan to deliver articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate on Monday, and the issue divides Alaska’s U.S. senators.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski let out a weary sigh when asked about the impeachment.

“I am more than a little bit frustrated that we’re going to be taking up an impeachment process that most everybody understands is really nothing more than a messaging effort,” she said.

The message is actually one that Murkowski agrees with: The Biden administration has mishandled the border crisis.

“It has been a wreck and a mess,” she said.

But once the Senate starts an impeachment trial, the rules require that it drop everything else, and Murkowski said that means less time on other priorities, like budget bills and national security legislation.

The House impeachment accuses Mayorkas of refusing to comply with the law and breaching the public trust. 

Defenders of Mayorkas, and some constitutional scholars say this is a policy dispute, not an impeachable offense. Murkowski said the job of the Senate would be to decide if Mayorkas’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“And I don’t see that,” she said. “And I don’t know that even if we were given the benefit of a full trial, we would ever get to that. And so in the meantime, we’re going to be going through an exercise that I am just not convinced is going to result in anything other than an opportunity to beat up on the administration’s immigration policies.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, on the other hand, called on Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer to hold a full trial for Mayorkas.

A Senate trial would start early next week. If there is one. Democrats are hoping to ditch the impeachment quickly, maybe with a motion to table or to dismiss. Murkowski said she she needs to see the specifics before she can say how she’d vote.

“I don’t know what the motion is going to be yet. I don’t think that anyone has defined that,” she said.

A large majority of Americans view immigration as a crisis or a major problem. And electoral politics are at stake. Democratic senators in tight races are under pressure to convict Mayorkas or risk political ads portraying them as weak on the border. Meanwhile, some of the Senate’s more conservative Republicans are talking about the issue in the harshest terms.

“We are witnessing a profound threat at our southern border,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters. “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the entire administration have deliberately facilitated the criminal invasion of the United States.”

Several studies of crime statistics have found that undocumented migrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens.

Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola voted against the impeachment in February, as did all House Democrats present.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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