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House ejects Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees over extremist remarks

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

The House voted largely along party lines Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committee assignments, a precedent-shattering move by Democrats to rebuke a Republican who has espoused extremist beliefs that she publicly renounced in part just hours before the vote.

The vote against Greene reflected deep frustration in the Democratic ranks over the Republican leadership’s reluctance to take its own action to marginalize Greene (R-Ga.), their desire to yoke the entire GOP to her extremism, and their anger over a lack of accountability for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

As recently as last year, Greene had been an open adherent of the QAnon ideology, a sprawling and violent web of false claims that played a role in inspiring the Capitol attack. In addition, she had made comments on social media suggesting that some mass shootings were staged by supporters of gun control, that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by government forces and that a Jewish cabal had sparked a deadly wildfire with a space beam.

“I don’t understand what is complicated here,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), exhorting his colleagues to sideline Greene. “We know the result of these violent conspiracy theories. We saw that on Jan. 6. We know what it leads to. I don’t ever want to see that again. And we all should make clear where we stand on this.”

The vote was 230 to 199, with 11 Republicans voting with Democrats to strip Greene of her committees.

Greene had renounced some of her most egregious remarks on the House floor a few hours earlier, in a 10-minute speech that was more explanation than apology — one that doubled down on her attacks against the media and her political enemies while omitting some of her most recent behavior.

“These were words of the past, and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values,” she said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said QAnon has no place in the Republican Party while also claiming that he doesn’t know what it is. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Greene said the 9/11 attacks “absolutely happened” and that school shootings are “absolutely real.” She said she embraced QAnon in late 2017 out of her support for former president Donald Trump and her mistrust of government and of mainstream media sources.

“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret,” she said. “Because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today, and you couldn’t point a finger and accuse me of anything wrong.”

She went on to describe the uproar about her comments as a “cancel culture” attack on the free speech of conservatives: “Big media companies can take teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said, that you have said, any of us, and can portray us as someone that we’re not, and that is wrong.”

It was enough remorse — first expressed behind closed doors in a House Republican conference meeting Wednesday evening — to mostly close the GOP ranks behind her ahead of Thursday’s vote.

“Representative Greene has denounced her previous comments and expressed regret over those actions,” said a whip memo sent to Republican lawmakers ahead of the vote, urging them to vote no. It also called the measure an “infringement upon minority rights which will have a lasting and damaging impact on the institution.”

But Greene’s comments Thursday did little to temper Democrats’ outrage — particularly as they seized on comments she made last year during her House campaign where she refused to repudiate QAnon, as well as her ongoing efforts to raise money off the uproar. Greene said on Twitter late Wednesday that she had raised more than $330,000 from 13,000 small donors in 48 hours.

“I’m just like millions of people in this country and millions of people around the world that are very much concerned about a deep state,” she told a local TV station in August, adding, “I’ve only ever seen patriotic sentiment coming out of that source and other sources.”

Equally infuriating to Democrats were social media postings she made approving of violence against prominent Democratic politicians including former president Barack Obama, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Greene did not address those postings in her Thursday remarks.

“I believe in forgiveness, but in order to benefit from forgiveness, you’ve got to demonstrate contrition, and she has demonstrated no contrition,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who added that he saw “a correlation between that type of reckless rhetoric and what we saw on Jan. 6.”

Pelosi on Thursday placed the onus on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and other Republican leaders, suggesting they should have acted against Greene out of a “sense of responsibility to this institution.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene brings her embrace of false claims back to levels acceptable for her caucus

One Pelosi deputy was even more stark: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called McCarthy’s refusal to act a “national security threat.”

“While the behavior of one individual is deeply disturbing, her party’s near unanimous capitulation is even more alarming,” he said in a statement.

In one striking moment on the House floor Thursday, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) hoisted a sign showing a Facebook post her campaign made in September — one showing Greene posing with a military-style rifle juxtaposed with photos of three liberal Democratic congresswomen and the caption “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare” — and walked it over to the Republican side of the chamber.

“When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” he said. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

Greene was seated among fellow Republicans as Hoyer spoke. Behind him was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the women featured in the post — and one of the Democrats whom Republicans have suggested they might remove from committees in the future under the new precedent.

Omar made allegedly anti-Semitic comments in 2019. She subsequently apologized and voted for a Democratic resolution denouncing hatred, though Pelosi and other leaders did not heed GOP calls to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While Republicans have suggested this week that partisan action against Greene would create a slippery slope — endangering the rights of Democratic members in a future GOP-majority House — Pelosi said she had no such concerns: “If any of our members threaten the safety of other members, we’d be the first ones to take them off a committee. That’s it.”

The vote came a day after McCarthy publicly refused to strip Greene from her committees as Democrats had demanded. Instead, he told reporters, he proposed to Hoyer that Greene move from the Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over school security, to the Small Business Committee.

Democrats rejected that move, and McCarthy responded by accusing Democrats of a “partisan power grab” that upended the long-standing practice of allowing each party’s leadership to determine its own committee assignments — a procedural argument that gained traction among GOP members who were uninterested in defending Greene’s comments.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the top Rules Committee Republican, called the move against Greene “a dangerous mistake” that would boomerang on Democrats.

“Frankly, when the majority changes, the temptation will be overwhelming for members to say: ‘Oh, well, there’s a member I didn’t like or said something or did something I didn’t like. . . . I think I’m just going to take that committee assignment away.’ ”

In floor remarks Thursday, McCarthy said the Democratic resolution “sets a dangerous new standard that will only deepen divisions within this House” and also suggested turnabout would someday be fair play for Republicans.

“I would advise them to think twice,” he said. “If people are held to what they said . . . prior to even being in this House, if [the] majority party gets to decide who sits on what other committees, I hope you keep that standard, because we have a long list to work with.”

But McCarthy’s refusal to bow to Democratic demands that Greene be entirely removed from her committees — as Republicans did in 2019 to then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after he made public comments questioning why the term “white supremacist” was offensive — stands to carry a political cost.

Democratic political operatives have signaled that they intended to use Thursday’s vote as a way to tie mainstream Republican lawmakers to the extremist right wing.

“The party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, the party of Reagan is becoming the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the party of violent conspiracy theories,” McGovern said.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the vote demonstrated the GOP’s inability to distance itself from extremism. The DCCC this week spent roughly $500,000 tying swing-district Republicans to QAnon, and after Thursday’s vote, the Democratic super PAC House Majority Forward said it would run ads on the same theme against McCarthy.

“When we said they stood with Q, we didn’t think it would be a standing ovation,” Maloney said.

Still, there appeared to be little hesitation in the GOP ranks on voting to support Greene. Several Republicans suggested that her speeches — inside the private GOP meeting and later on the floor — helped defuse the issue inside the party ranks.

“We’ve seen some people shift from just voting no for the procedure and precedent to voting because now we know the person,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). “She’s admitting to mistakes she’s made in the past.”

Some moderate Republicans voted to support keeping Greene on her committees, saying that they were uncomfortable with reprimanding a member for conduct that happened before their congressional service.

“This type of rhetoric has no standing, no place in Congress, and she knows where we stand as a conference,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). “She did this before she came to Congress, and I’ve given her the benefit of saying, ‘Okay, you’re a member of Congress now; we’re all watching.’ ”

McCarthy moves to keep splintering GOP intact, with protection for both Cheney and Greene

The 11 Republicans who backed removing her from committees were Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Carlos A. Gimenez (Fla.), Chris Jacobs (N.Y.), John Katko (N.Y.), Young Kim (Calif.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Christopher H. Smith (N.J.) and Fred Upton (Mich.).

One of those who backed Greene was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who survived an attempt by some Republicans Wednesday to oust her from her No. 3 leadership post because she voted to impeach Trump.

The Greene saga might not yet be over: Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), who has introduced a resolution to expel Greene from the House, said he still intended to force a vote on that question, but he said he was in talks with Democratic leaders about the timing of the move. The House is expected to take a two-week recess after it completes its business this week.

Gomez said Thursday’s vote — and Greene’s speech — did little to soothe Democrats’ anger, which remains raw just four weeks after the deadly riot.

“If Donald Trump is Conspirator No. 1 in the insurrection, she’s Conspirator No. 2,” he said. “That’s why I’m pursuing this, is to send a message that this kind of discourse in our politics is not acceptable — inciting political violence, threatening people, is not acceptable, and a person like that should not hold a position in the House of Representatives.”