Jeffries defends surprise appearance of Texas Democrat to tank impeachment vote

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is rejecting the idea that Democrats played dirty during this week’s failed GOP effort to impeach the Homeland Security secretary, arguing that Republican leaders control the floor — and are solely accountable for the management of it.

“It’s not our responsibility to let House Republicans know which members will or will not be present on the House floor on any other day or in connection with any given vote,” Jeffries told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol.

A surprise appearance by a Democrat during Tuesday’s extraordinary vote upended Republicans’ plans to pass a resolution impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of the migrant crisis on the southern border.

With a hairline majority — and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) absent for medical reasons — GOP leaders had almost no room for defections. But Democrats had suggested throughout the day that they expected one absence, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who was also receiving medical care. And if that were the case, the impeachment resolution would have passed. 

Instead, Green was ushered into Tuesday’s vote in a wheelchair to deliver the decisive vote — a dramatic twist that sank the resolution and an embarrassing outcome for GOP leaders who have made the border crisis a central attack line against President Biden heading into November’s elections. 

Afterward, some Republicans accused Democrats of deceiving GOP leaders by staying silent about Green’s attendance. 

“We can basically … look at this as a game, unfortunately, and their strategy. And they hid one of their members, waiting to the last minute, watching to see our votes, trying to throw us off on the numbers that we had versus the numbers they had,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said. “That was a strategy at play tonight.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) stopped short of blaming Democrats for the floor fiasco. But the morning after the vote, he emphasized the difficulty in making decisions about bringing bills to the floor without knowing precisely how many members will participate. 

Jeffries, for his part, said he has a “functional relationship” with Johnson, who’s in just his fourth month on the job after replacing ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last October. But the Democratic leader also warned of the clear limits to their cooperation. 

“I made clear to him that, as has been evidenced throughout the entirety of this Congress, that we are ready to work with them on any issue in a bipartisan way,” Jeffries said. “But we’re done with them playing political games.”

Jeffries also said Green participated in Tuesday’s vote of his own volition, without any coercing from Democratic leaders. 

“He has told his story directly and he made it clear to me that it was important for him to be present to cast a vote against this sham impeachment led by Marjorie Taylor Greene, targeting a hard working public servant like Secretary Mayorkas,” Jeffries said.

Mychael Schnell contributed reporting.

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