House Republicans were forced to report on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) Thursday night as the lower chamber voted on guerrilla lines to remove them from their two committee duties.
The vote comes after days of back and forth between party leaders as the Democrats have pushed for consequences the first term representative who in no particular order endorsed or suggested: the QAnon conspiracy theory; Parkland and 9/11 denial; the assassination of democratic leaders; and the idea that forest fires in 2018 were started by a Jewish-controlled space laser.
The move vote, which took place between 230 and 199 and saw eleven Republicans join the Democrats, could be a turning point for both parties, but especially for the GOP. House Republicans have effectively weighed their party's future and whether it welcomes lawmakers like Greene and the supporters they bring with them.
Eleven Republicans voted YES
Jacobs of New York
Kim from California
Smith of NJ
– Kristin Wilson (@kristin__wilson) February 4, 2021
But it could also be a crucial moment in the House's institutional politics.
Disciplining members is a rare tactic and virtually unknown to comments made prior to their election. During the debate, Republicans warned that the Democrats were opening a "Pandora's Box" of majority tyranny, while the Democrats claimed that Greene's comments represented a uniquely unacceptable situation.
In the future, both parties may have some control over whether it is a unique piece in the history of Congress or a signal for the future.
The Republicans are trying to unite two very controversial factions
The vote is yet another battle in the ongoing battle between the establishment wing of the Republican Party – represented by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who tried to end the party from former President Donald Trump and to distance Greene – and the pro-trump, conspiratorial right-wing flank that includes QAnon supporters, non-pollers, and a significant number of House Republicans.
In a closed session of the House Republicans Tuesday night, Greene made private apologies for the fact that her statements may have injured other Republicans. Explaining that there were shootings on September 11th and at school, she said she hugged QAnon during a dark period in her life but has made progress since then. In a presentation of how embedded she is in the GOP of the house, she received a standing ovation.
Of course, Greene is still raising funds for her controversies – she says she raised $ 175,000 – and had yet to address the incidents publicly until she spoke on the floor during the debate on the resolution on Thursday. She expressed "regret" for her contributions in support of 9/11 and the rejection of school shootings, but did not mention her previous anti-Semitic and violent remarks or suggestions that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be killed .
Greene also accused tech companies of enforcing the "demolition culture" by using "tiny, tiny words that I said, that you said to each of us, and portray us in something we are not", and said the media are "just as guilty as QAnon" when it comes to promoting lies.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the Chair of the House Rules Committee, spoke with increasing despair as the debate progressed, saying he had not yet heard an apology from Greene and expressed his shock that such a weak statement warranted a standing ovation from Republicans.
If @SpeakerPelosi were the leader of the minority, she would use every identity ploy in the book to defend her member.
White, woman, woman, mother, Christian, conservative, business owner
These are the reasons why they don't want me at Ed & Labor.
It's my identity and my values.
– Marjorie Taylor Greene (@mtgreenee) February 3, 2021
Now Republicans must weigh the pressures associated with the vote. On the one hand, the establishment leaders have condemned Greene. The Democratic Campaigns Committee for Democratic Republicans has been pounding Republicans against Greene and has already posted advertisements in vulnerable Republican districts linking some moderates with the controversial representative.
"Do (House Republicans) want to be the party with limited government and tax responsibilities, free markets, peace through strength and pro-life, or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon?" Senator John Thune (R-SD), the Senate's second ranking Republican, said on CNN.
On the flip side, Trump is still wielding enormous influence over the party and its base. He reportedly hugged Greene and she explicitly committed herself to the former president, turning a vote against her into a possible rejection of Trump and everything he represents.
In the middle is McCarthy, who tried to unite his caucus in this closed meeting, and is behind Cheney and Greene. He condemned Greene's statements but did nothing against them.
In a statement condemning Greene's anti-Semitic theories and embrace of violence, McCarthy picked a scapegoat all his caucus could agree on: Democrats. And given that Republicans overwhelmingly voted to keep Greene on their committees, it is clear that his gambling worked.
The institutional future of the house is at stake
Democrats say Greene's comments are so egregious that such historic measures are warranted and that the vote would be unnecessary if Republicans had taken care of it themselves – as both parties have previously done with faulty members. They are particularly concerned about the Republican leadership's decision to add them to the education committee, despite their comments on the parkland gunfire and harassment of survivor David Hogg.
But Republicans say Democrats are playing on procedural fire, opening the door to an escalation where the majority party is free to punish members of the minority with whom they disagree.
"I understand Marjorie's comments have caused many deep wounds, and as a result, I offered Majority Leader (Steny) Hoyer a way to bring the temperature down and address those concerns," McCarthy said in a statement. "Rather than come together to do this, the Democrats decide to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented move to advance their partisan takeover of the other party's committee duties."
McCarthy's comment is a warning to the Democrats that if Republicans pursue the recall of the committee, they could dictate minority assignments if they recapture the majority in 2022. He also provides cover for GOP members of the House if they say they will vote to support Greene only to prevent Democrats from abusing their power as a majority.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) accepted this argument, speaking on the floor during the debate.
"The matter we are facing is bigger than any single member," he said. “It's about how we will function as an institution in the future. I fear if we open this Pandora's box, we won't like what happens next. "
When asked if she is concerned about the precedent set by Marjorie Taylor Greene's vote, Pelosi replied:
"No, not at all. If one of our members were to threaten the safety of other members, we would be the first to remove them from a committee. That's it."
– Kyle Griffin (@ kylegriffin1) February 4, 2021
Both parties would have control over whether this is the case. It would be an active decision by both Democrats and Republicans (next time they hold a majority) to target members of the other party.
A group of Republicans in the House has already sponsored a retaliatory amendment to remove progressive MP Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her committee duties. The move has no political chance in a democratic house, but it sends a clear, albeit insincere message about the punishment of supposed “extremism”. As Vox's Zack Beauchamp wrote, comparing the most radical left Democrats with Greene draws a false equivalence between adopting socialist politics in peer democracies and assuming that a cabal of Jews causes natural disasters from space.
For their part, Democrats say the action is uniquely inspired by the circumstances of one member encouraging violence against another member – an attitude that McGovern called "not a radical idea" and was just unprecedented in Greene's party refused to take action.
you were determined to impose consequences on Greene, and some members even advocated reprimand or expulsion.
"The Lincoln Party is becoming a party of violent conspiracy theories," McGovern said during the debate on the resolution. "And apparently the Republican Party leaders in the House are not going to do anything about it today."
How did we get here?
Thursday's vote marks the culmination of a week of negotiations between McCarthy and Hoyer since the latest Greene scandals came to light.
In the aftermath of last week's scandals, Democrats, including Pelosi, spoke out against her – especially after the Republicans appointed her to the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.
McCarthy was pressured to take action after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) began drafting the resolution to expel Greene from the committees. His promise to meet her was not enough for the House Democrats. On Monday, Hoyer McCarthy gave 72 hours to evade Greene's committee duties – as the Republican leadership had eventually done done with former MP Steve King for repeated white supremacist comments.
McCarthy called Hoyer with a counter offer: He would transfer Greene from the Education Committee to another committee if the Democrats agreed to drop the resolution. Hoyer said no, and the regulatory committee went ahead with the decision and voted to speak.
Republican leadership discussed possible committee moves for Greene, but ultimately McCarthy decided to put it to the vote, effectively signaling that he – and the members he leads – would defend Greene's place in the party.
The caucus also voted to keep Cheney in the lead with a vote of 145-61-1 in a secret ballot, demonstrating the attraction that both wings of the party have on members.
If Trump's departure from the White House resumed the GOP civil war, McCarthy would have made his position clear: the Republican tent is big enough for his critics – and also for QAnon supporters and conspiracy theorists.
correction: The House voted largely partisan – 11 Republicans joined the Democrats – to remove Greene's committee duties on Thursday evening. The full party vote was held earlier in the day to move the resolution forward.
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