The House is teeing up a vote Thursday on whether to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee posts over a series of incendiary comments and actions by the controversial GOP lawmaker, including endorsing the assassination of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
It is extremely rare for one party in the House to intervene in another’s personnel affairs — but the vote is one Democratic leaders said they were forced to undertake after top Republicans refused to act. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has denounced Greene’s past actions but has rebuffed calls to take away her committee assignments, only offering to reassign her.
“If anybody starts threatening the lives of members of Congress on the Democratic side, we’d be the first to eliminate them from committees. They had the opportunity to do so,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday.
Pelosi later told reporters that she was “profoundly disturbed” that Republicans were continuing to allow Greene, a known conspiracy theorist, to sit on those panels.
"You would think the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution,” Pelosi said.
The action against Greene comes after her racist and anti-Semitic comments and social media posts — most from before her time in Congress — surfaced over the last week. Greene has also closely aligned herself with QAnon until just recently and was one of the most vocal promoters of baseless election fraud claims touted by former President Donald Trump in the lead up to a violent mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The Georgia Republican currently serves on the House Education and Budget panels. Democrats have taken particular issue with her sitting on the Education Committee after she said the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were staged. Greene was also filmed harassing David Hogg, a teenage school shooting survivor.
Greene delivered her first public response to the resolution on the floor Thursday, just hours before the vote on her fate. But her remarks — which fell short of an apology for spreading conspiracies or endorsing violence against sitting members of Congress — are unlikely to appease many Democrats.
In a roughly five-minute speech, Greene distanced herself from her record of promoting conspiracy theories including QAnon, declaring, "I walked away from those things," and she said she did "regret" believing those falsehoods.
"School shootings are absolutely real. … I also want to tell you 9/11 absolutely happened," Greene said in what many considered an extraordinary set of remarks for the House floor.
But Greene also used her speech to attack Big Tech, "cancel culture" and Black Lives Matter, while describing "a media that is just as guilty as QAnon of presenting lies that divide us."
Her attacks on American journalism quickly drew a rebuke from House Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) on the floor, who said in rebuttal, "To equate the media to QAnon is beyond the pale."
Democrats panned her floor speech Thursday, with Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) saying it came off as "premeditated."
"I did not hear remorse and I didn’t hear an apology," Garcia said. "It’s all about spin and I think she’ll probably try to raise a lot of money from it. I think it’s disgraceful."
Before her appearance on Thursday, Greene had only issued defiant statements declaring she wouldn’t back down and fundraising off the push to punish her. Greene did express remorse during a tense closed-door GOP meeting Wednesday night — leading to a standing ovation by half the conference — but even Republicans in the room disagreed on whether she gave an actual apology.
While Greene’s speech is unlikely to win her any praise in Democratic circles, it could help solidify her place in the GOP conference, where members had wanted Greene to denounce her rhetoric publicly.
"I think everybody should hear that,” McCarthy said after Wednesday’s meeting. “I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us.”
The vote comes at a critical moment for the Republican Party as it grapples with its identity in a new era where Trump is out of office — and recently out of sight — but still looms large and wields significant power. McCarthy’s efforts to carefully balance the competing factions was on full display during the meeting Wednesday, where he stood by Greene while simultaneously offering a forceful defense of No. 3 Republican Liz Cheney amid attempts to oust her from leadership for voting to impeach Trump.
At least one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, had said he plans to vote with Democrats Thursday unless Greene comes out and publicly apologizes and denounces her past actions.
Since last year, POLITICO has reported on a series of videos and statements by Greene espousing racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. And CNN and other outlets have also reported that Greene liked social media comments about violence against Pelosi, including “a bullet to the head” of the speaker; and even saying a Jewish space laser was responsible for deadly California wildfires.
McCarthy had tried to avoid a House floor vote, which will put many of his members in the uncomfortable spot of defending Greene — and therefore offering at least tacit support for her behavior — or going against the Georgia Republican, who is closely aligned with Trump.
The GOP leader reached out to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday, offering to move Greene from the Education panel to the Small Business Committee if Democrats agreed to call off the vote. But Hoyer rejected the idea, saying that didn’t go far enough given Greene’s actions.
“She has attacked and made incendiary remarks prior to, but also during her term as a member of Congress with respect to the safety and welfare of the speaker of the House and others in the House,” Hoyer told reporters.
House Democrats are outraged over Greene, with several moving to take more severe action including censuring or even expelling her. Democratic leaders have not wanted to go that route yet and see the effort to strip her of committee assignments as appropriate punishment for now.
Typically, the question of yanking a member off of committees is handled internally by each party. McCarthy moved quickly to strip then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee posts in 2019 after he defended white supremacy.
But McCarthy has held off on disciplining Greene, holding multiple meetings with both her and his leadership team this week before ultimately deciding not to act. The California Republican defended Greene during the GOP’s private meeting Wednesday and warned Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent for the future.
“If they come after her, they’ll come after someone else next,” McCarthy said.
Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.
Read more: politico.com