This article has been updated.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says he is determined to prove “this Republican Party’s a very big tent.”

It must be. Where else could you hold the epic two-ring circus that has been going on within the House Republican caucus this week?

To McCarthy, the dual sagas involving Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), an unhinged freshman congresswoman, represented a chance to show his mettle. “You elected me leader,” he said during a private session with his membership. “Let me lead.”

What McCarthy actually demonstrated, however, was precisely the opposite of taking charge. The degree to which the Trumpist hard-right is in the driver’s seat became clear when the GOP rallied behind Greene.

Meanwhile, nearly 30 percent of the Republicans who voted — a surprisingly large bloc — ignored McCarthy’s pleas for unity and chose to oust Cheney from her leadership post.

After then-Rep. Steve King of Iowa repeatedly made offensive statements, Republicans disciplined him — belatedly — in 2019 by taking away his committee assignments. But in Greene’s case, they abdicated their responsibility. So Democrats who hold a narrow majority in the House chamber took matters into their own hands. They voted to remove Greene from the two House panels on which she sits: the Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.

Republicans howled about this unprecedented breach with normal procedure, but not even they bothered to mount an actual defense of Greene, who has spouted conspiracy theories claiming that the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., were hoaxes, that Hillary Clinton mutilated and murdered a child during a satanic ritual and that California wildfires were caused by Jewish-controlled lasers based in outer space.

On social media, Greene has also endorsed calls for the murders of federal agents and her Democratic colleagues. When a commenter on her Facebook feed suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) might be removed with “a bullet to the head,” Greene gave it a “like.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recognizes what Greene represents. He described her “loony conspiracy theories” as a “cancer” on her party.

But on the House floor on Thursday, Greene portrayed herself as “a very regular American, just like the people I represent in my district.” Which, if true, is a depressing thought.

Shedding crock-of-bile tears behind her “FREE SPEECH” mask, the freshman congresswoman even claimed she was actually a victim of the QAnon movement that she once embraced. “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them,” Greene said, “and that is absolutely what I regret.”

She insisted that she no longer holds these beliefs, and claimed to have renounced them in 2018, though some of her more egregious comments and social media posts were made more recently. But as recently as last week, she vowed in a fundraising solicitation that she would “never back down.” And on Thursday, Greene could not resist one more defiant jab of outrageous whataboutism: “Will we allow the media, that is just as guilty as QAnon of presenting truth and lies, to divide us?”

The House voted largely along party lines on Feb. 4 to eject Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from two committee assignments. (Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

All of this was apparently a reprise of comments that she had made on Wednesday during a closed session of the House Republican Conference — a meeting at which her fellow GOP members went along with McCarthy’s argument that her behavior merited no punishment. About half reportedly even gave her a standing ovation.

Some Republicans also argued that Greene’s antics should be dealt with by the Ethics Committee. On the first page of the ethics manual that each member is given, the representatives are advised that they are expected to “conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.” But it is unlikely that statements and actions that took place before she was sworn into office would fall under the panel’s purview.

Whether Greene is capable of containing herself going forward is doubtful. There are countless examples of lawmakers who have not always lived up to the standards they have set for themselves — examples which Republicans cited ad nauseam — but it is hard to think of any other House member who has inhabited a dangerous alternate reality with as much fervor and as little remorse as Greene has. And in the eyes of a not-insubstantial segment of the Republican base, that makes her a hero.

Let him lead, McCarthy asks? It would be nice, for a change, to see him actually try.

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