This post has been updated.
Were Greene to be booted from her committee assignments, she would join a small club — one mostly made up of convicted criminals but also plenty of more extreme figures like herself.
Ousting members from committees wasn’t done for much of American history. That changed in 2001, though, when Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) voted for a Republican, Dennis Hastert, for speaker. Democrats soon took him off his committees.
But the move wasn’t just about the Hastert vote. Traficant had voted with Republicans regularly for years and antagonized his party with his antics. There was also an expectation that he would soon be indicted, given several of his associates had been convicted in a long-running corruption investigation.
Republicans initially floated the idea of trying to give Traficant their own slots on committees, but by May of that year he was indeed indicted. He was later convicted in 2002 on 10 counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
In losing his committee assignments, Traficant became the first House member in nearly 100 years to begin a Congress without one, according to the Associated Press. But even that demonstrates how rare this has been used as a punitive measure; Traficant’s predecessor in this distinction was Rep. Claude Swanson (D-Va.), who didn’t receive committee assignments because he had run for and won the Virginia governorship in 1905.
In the years since Traficant, committee removal has increasingly been employed as a punishment — something short of the more drastic step of expulsion (which Traficant eventually suffered as well) but meant to send a message and insulate a party from claims that they’ve done nothing to address a problematic situation.
In 2006, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was facing a corruption investigation in which FBI agents had found $90,000 in alleged bribe money in a freezer. After winning reelection in a runoff, he was kicked off the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson was convicted in 2009 on 11 counts of corruption.
In 2007, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was caught in a sting investigating sexual activity in a restroom at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to step down from top GOP posts on Veterans' Affairs Committee and two subcommittees in response to pressure from leadership. Craig retained membership on the committees but expressed regret for his guilty plea. He did not seek reelection in 2008.
The next example of committee assignments being stripped came in 2012. Several GOP lawmakers were taken off plum assignments in response to their votes against party leadership, though they weren’t excluded from all committees. Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) were removed from the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was taken off the House Budget Committee and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) was taken off both the Budget and Agriculture committees.
The members alleged an ideological purge of the party, given most of them were aligned with the tea party. Then-House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) denied it was about being too conservative, rather than voting against leadership.
By 2018, two more Republican lawmakers were stripped of all their committee assignments. Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) were both kicked off their committees in response to indictments: Collins for insider trading and Hunter for misuse of campaign funds. Both were ultimately convicted, but now former president Donald Trump pardoned them last month alongside other former GOP lawmakers shortly before leaving office.
Then in 2019, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was kicked off his committees for his controversial comments about white supremacy. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in a New York Times interview.
The comments sealed the fate of a congressman who had for years employed divisive rhetoric and embraced far-right politicians, especially with regard to his hard-line stance on illegal immigration.
McCarthy said at the time: “That is not the party of Lincoln. It is definitely not American. All people are created equal in America, and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”
McCarthy now confronts a similar situation in which he has to decide whether a member of Congress’s comments and conspiratorial rhetoric represent his party. He’s clearly getting pressure both ways. A report early Wednesday suggested he was leaning toward sanctioning her, but getting his party doing so would require his party to go along.
Were Greene to be kicked off her committees — which include the House Education Committee, despite her on-camera badgering of school-shooting survivor and gun-control activist David Hogg — she would follow in relatively rare company of those not just kicked off committees, but kicked off committees for something other than alleged criminal activity.