House GOP Leader Balks at Punishing Greene as Democrats Set Vote
(Bloomberg) -- House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy condemned past incendiary statements by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene but said he’ll take no action to punish the Georgia Republican, as House Democrats moved to oust her from two committees.
Greene kept the backing of House Republicans after she faced them Wednesday night in a private meeting where she backed away from her previous promotion of QAnon and other conspiracies that had brought denunciations from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and other, as well as Democrats.
“She was contrite. I think she brought a lot of people over to her side,” GOP Representative Tom Massie of Kentucky said of Greene’s remarks to the conference.
House lawmakers will vote Thursday on whether to revoke Greene’s committee assignments, after the Rules Committee advanced a resolution earlier Wednesday for consideration by the Democratic-controlled chamber.
The move was initiated by Democrats to pressure Republicans to take action against Greene, but McCarthy said they instead were creating a distraction that risked raising political tension.
McCarthy said he offered to reassign Greene, who represents a district in northwest Georgia, to the Small Business Committee rather than the Education and Labor Committee, but that Democrats rejected it.
In an earlier statement, McCarthy said that Greene’s past remarks “on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference.”
He said he had told Greene that members of Congress have to hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct and that her past comments carry greater meaning.
“Marjorie recognized this in our conversation,” McCarthy said. “I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward.”
Greene’s fate and another intra-party conflict involving Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 GOP leader in the House, reflects the struggle within the Republican Party over its future direction and how much influence former President Donald Trump will continue to have.
Greene, 46, has closely aligned herself with Trump and touted his support as she’s come under scrutiny. At the same time, some Trump loyalists are seeking to remove Cheney from her leadership post because she was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Cheney prevailed in a vote Wednesday night on whether she should remain in House GOP leadership. The 145-61 tally, with one member voting present, came at the end of an emotional four-hour meeting, according to people who were in the room.
“People can have differences of opinion that the we can have a discussions about,” McCarthy said before the vote. “Liz has the right to vote her conscience.”
Speaking in her own defense, Cheney, 54, made no apologies for her Jan. 13 vote to impeach Trump. She did argue, however, that she is a team player and should continue in her leadership role.
“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together,” Cheney told reporters after the meeting.
Representative Jim Banks of Indiana said they hoped the House GOP would emerge more unified.
Banks called some of the things Greene has said or tweeted “despicable.”
“At the same time,” he added, “we had several Democrat members of Congress who’ve said despicable anti-Semitic things since they’ve been members of Congress, without making any attempt at apologize or scrub their comments from the public record.”
Greene has come under harsh criticism from some fellow Republicans, including McConnell, who said “loony lies and conspiracy theories” are a “cancer” for the party and the country.
Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said Tuesday that Greene “doesn’t represent the party.”
“I don’t want her as the face of our party. I think it’s a great time for us to really talk about what we want to see in the upcoming years and continue to build,” Ernst told reporters. “We don’t need people that are promoting violence or anything like that.”
Greene has promoted QAnon conspiracies. She’s also questioned whether a plane actually hit the Pentagon in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and whether some mass shootings in the U.S. were staged or carried out for political purposes.
Greene has been using the criticism she’s facing to raise money.
“I need all the support I can get so I can defend myself in the public sphere. And I won’t get any help from the Establishment wing of the Republican party,” one fundraising email said.
Some Republicans have threatened to retaliate against Democrats. Republican Brian Babin of Texas has been pushing a revised version of the Democratic resolution to remove Greene from her committee seats, replacing her name with that of Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar and calling for her removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee for past comments that have used anti-Semitic tropes.
“If the Democratic majority wants to go down this road, they should start by dealing with their own members who have been at this before and AFTER their election to Congress. And there is no worse offender than Ilhan Omar,” Babin said in a statement.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had addressed Omar’s remarks with her at the time and she has not said anything similar since.
“There’s no such analogy to be made, there’s no comparison to be made, there’s no parallel situation,” he told reporters.
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