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What to watch for in the Senate impeachment trial of Alejandro Mayorkas

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The Senate is set to begin an impeachment trial this week for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — the first of its kind in nearly 150 years — after weeks of delay.

Mayorkas became the second Cabinet secretary ever impeached last month, after the GOP-controlled House’s second try succeeded.

Republicans have channeled their outrage over the record number of border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border into the effort to oust Mayorkas, alleging that he is refusing to enforce immigration laws. Democrats frame the fight as a policy disagreement between the GOP and the White House, hoping to end the proceedings quickly.

Here’s what to expect:

Dems need speed: Senate Democrats aren’t interested in a full trial, where House Republicans make their case for removing Mayorkas, and will try to keep it as short as possible.

“We’re going to try to resolve this issue as quickly as impossible. Impeachment should never be used to settle policy disagreements,” Schumer said last week.

The Senate must summon Mayorkas to let him know the charges he faces and ask for a written answer. But he would not have to appear in the Senate at any point; don’t expect him to.

The process will be led by Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Unlike presidential impeachments, the chief justice of the supreme court is not involved.

Dem dismissal? Democrats hold the Senate majority. If they stand united, they could dismiss the trial outright or move to table the two articles of impeachment.

That would effectively end the House effort and free the upper chamber to pursue other business. No Democrats thus far have voiced support for impeaching Mayorkas.

Schumer has not been concrete about his plans, other than a desire to keep the process short.

Multiple GOP senators have lamented a trial as a waste of time, given the expected outcome in the Democratic-controlled chamber. But it’s not clear that sentiment would drive any to dismiss the charges from the outset.

Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was unclear last week at what point in the process he could voice his view: “Mayorkas has done a terrible job, but he’s following the direction of the President and has not met the constitutional test of a high criminal crime or misdemeanor.”

Reaching for referral: If Democrats are unable to unanimously dismiss or table the articles, they have the option of voting to create a trial committee that would investigate the charges against Mayorkas.

This would follow the precedent of several trials of federal judges in the last 100 years.

There aren’t hard and fast rules for the committee referral process. But in the past, the Senate has moved a resolution to authorize party leaders to appoint six senators and a chair, authorize the calling of witnesses and issue a final report.

Democrats would largely like to avoid this path as it would keep the GOP allegations against Mayorkas and the Biden administration alive heading into an election where border security is expected to be a major issue.

GOP seeks to stretch it out: Mike Lee (R-Utah) and some of his conservative GOP colleagues have pledged to try and force a full trial, or at least utilize procedural delay tactics to drag out out as long as possible.

They argue the Senate has a constitutional obligation to hear the arguments for and against impeachment from the House managers.

Lee is expected to make multiple points of order and possibly force votes. But if Democrats stand united, they can table all of Lee’s attempts.

Ursula Perano contributed to this report.