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May 21, 2024 6:04 AM
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Biggs ready for his day in impeachment spotlight, even if it’s short-lived – Cronkite News

Photo: Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, in March with other members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. One analyst said being named a manager for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment trial is like “political nirvana” for the conservative Biggs, but it’s not clear how long the impeachment will last. (Photo by Ian McKinney/Cronkite News)

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs said he is prepared to tell the Senate, and the American public, the “historical basis” of high crimes and misdemeanors and how they apply to the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

If he gets the chance.

The Senate is expected to quickly dismiss articles of impeachment that will be sent over this week from the House, which indicted Mayorkas in February on two articles, including willful refusal to comply with the law and “breach of public trust.”

Biggs is one of 11 House managers scheduled to present the case to the Senate, which one analyst called a “reinforcement of brand on steroids” for the Gilbert Republican who is one of the leaders for the far-right Freedom Caucus in the House.

“There is profound frustration on both sides of the aisle with what’s taking place on the border,” said Arizona political consultant Jason Rose, who called the impeachment a significant opportunity for Biggs. “For Congressman Biggs, this is as close to political nirvana as it gets.”

After initially failing to muster a majority, the House in February voted 214-213 to impeach Mayorkas, arguing that his handling of the border and fentanyl crisis rose to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” laid out in the Constitution for impeachment. The articles passed over the opposition of three Republicans and every Democrat in the House.

A House vote just starts the impeachment process – the Senate has the final say after holding a hearing on the case presented by the House, and must vote by a two-thirds majority to remove the subject from office. After languishing in the House since February, the articles of impeachment could be sent to the Senate on Tuesday, according to news reports.

Biggs was tapped as one of a handful of Republicans to present the House case to the Senate, but some senators have expressed doubt about whether the allegations against Mayorkas rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Biggs says that if he gets the chance to speak, his primary focus would be on “letting people know what high crimes and misdemeanors are.”

“I think people tend to think, ‘Oh, that’s felonies and misdemeanors,’ but that’s not the constitutional definition,” Biggs said recently. “I will provide that historical basis, all the way from the beginning of our country to where we sit today. The next thing I would do is tie those to the articles of impeachment, which would show how the evidence related to the law.”

Biggs expressed concern about whether managers would be able to fully plead their case, saying that they may “have a little bit of time to talk as managers, but we won’t get a talk on this probably on the Senate floor, based on what I’m hearing.”

If senators move to table or quickly dismiss the articles, it would be in stark contrast to recent impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in 2020 and 2021 and President Bill Clinton 1998. In both cases, House managers presented lengthy arguments to the senators.

Unlike those impeachments, however, the Mayorkas case is only the second time Congress has tried to impeach a Cabinet member – the last was in 1876. Critics say it is the latest example of the “weaponization” of the constitutional impeachment process.

Paul Bentz, senior vice president of research and strategy for HighGround Inc., said the meaning of impeachment has changed, calling it “political theater,” and suggesting that it’s merely a part of Republicans’ overall campaign strategy.

“I think the goal or at least one of their major goals is to just increase the negativity surrounding the Biden administration,” Bentz said.

Since negativity “generally has a cooling effect on voter turnout,” it could benefit Republicans, Bentz said. “Lower-turnout elections tend to benefit Republicans because there are fewer younger voters, fewer independent-leaning voters, who will show up in a presidential year if they feel like it’s incredibly negative.”

Bentz is not as convinced as Rose that being an impeachment manager will be a big deal for Biggs, who is from “a very safe congressional district” and does not necessarily need the exposure.

“There’s no risk for Biggs to manage an impeachment like this. This isn’t raising his profile to maintain that competitive advantage in that district or anything to that effect,” Bentz said. “His district is incredibly safe for Republicans, and he can hold it probably as long as … you’d want to.”

While Rose agrees with Bentz that the ultimate purpose of impeachment has changed, he thinks that those in office will ultimately correct their missteps.

“Of course, the purpose has changed. Yes, it’s been weaponized,” Rose said. “But here’s the thing about politics: It’s no different than the free market. It always fixes itself. Always. And when people go too far, when people look goofy, the political marketplace will remind them that that’s not acceptable behavior.”

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