House Democrats are moving ahead with a vote Thursday to strip freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments after Republican leaders refused to act unilaterally, instead attacking Democrats for intervening.
The already tense situation escalated significantly Wednesday, with Democrats rejecting a last-minute pitch from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to call off the vote if Republicans agreed to an alternative form of punishment. McCarthy then put out a statement slamming Democrats and accusing them of a “partisan power grab.”
“I understand that Marjorie’s comments have caused deep wounds to many and as a result, I offered Majority Leader Hoyer a path to lower the temperature and address these concerns,” McCarthy said.
“Instead of coming together to do that, the Democrats are choosing to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party.”
Earlier in the day McCarthy sought a commitment from Hoyer during a Wednesday call to yank the resolution from the floor if Republicans agreed to move Greene from the House Education Committee to the Small Business panel. The Georgia Republican also serves on the House Budget Committee.
But Hoyer swiftly shot down the idea, saying the House will vote Thursday on a measure to boot Greene from all of her congressional panels.
“She has placed many members in fear for their welfare. And she has attacked and made incendiary remarks prior to but also during her term as a member of Congress,” Hoyer told reporters Wednesday. “We believe she also gave a comfort to those who led an insurrection” on Jan. 6.
Greene has come under fire for a string of comments she made — many before coming to Congress — including suggesting the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings are a hoax and endorsing violence against Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Greene has also espoused racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views, promoted QAnon conspiracy theories, and was one of the most vocal advocates of baseless election fraud claims in the run up to a mob attacking the Capitol Jan. 6 in a bid to overturn the presidential election.
McCarthy huddled with a small group of Republicans in his office Wednesday afternoon — including embattled GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, whose fate Republicans met to debate later in the day. The California Republican later put out his statement condemning Greene’s past remarks but saying Democrats’ resolution does nothing but “distract Congress.”
McCarthy also took shots at Democrats previously leaving some of their most controversial members on committees despite questionable actions, giving a nod to but not directly mentioning Rep. Ilhan Omar. The Minnesota Democrat came under fire for anti-Semitic comments in the past but then apologized, something Greene has so far refused to do.
McCarthy made similar remarks to Republicans privately Wednesday afternoon, saying he didn’t want to have to vote on the Greene resolution on the floor but warning his conference that Democrats would come after others for past controversial statements otherwise.
The House Rules Committee met Wednesday afternoon to tee up the Greene resolution for a Thursday vote.
Democrats’ decision to move ahead comes as McCarthy had been scrambling to avoid what could be an embarrassing floor vote for Republicans, forcing them to go on the record against a Donald Trump-aligned colleague many would rather not even acknowledge.
Yet some Republicans are wary of disciplining a member for comments she made before coming to Congress. And further compounding their anxiety, Democrats are already signaling they plan to make the GOP’s ties to QAnon a central campaign theme in 2022.
GOP members of the Rules Committee were quick to denounce Greene’s past comments and distance themselves from her remarks.
“I find Congresswoman Greene’s comments deeply offensive — using vile, anti-Semitic slurs, degrading those with special needs, endorsing violence against political leaders, and further victimizing those who have suffered unimaginable trauma is absolutely repugnant and unbecoming of any member of Congress,” Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.
But they also questioned the precedent Democrats would be setting by intervening in the other party’s committee assignments and punishing a member for statements made before coming to Congress.
Democrats shot back that Greene has done nothing to show remorse since her controversial statements surfaced, even tweeting that she would not apologize and then fundraising off the controversy.
“When a person encourages talk about shooting a member in the head, they should lose the right to serve on any committee,” House Rule Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said, noting Greene has since “doubled down” by refusing to apologize.
“If this is not the bottom, I don’t know what the hell is,” he added.
On a private call with Democrats earlier Wednesday, Hoyer telegraphed that he was unlikely to extend McCarthy a lifeline on the issue, saying the GOP leader stripped another controversial Republican, Iowa Rep. Steve King, of his committee posts in 2019 for defending the term “white supremacist.”
King’s comments were “far less egregious and incendiary” than Greene’s behavior, Hoyer told his caucus.
Democrats have been outraged by Greene’s past comments and her more recent actions in the run up to the deadly Capitol riots on Jan. 6, with several members wanting to go further and censure or expel the freshman Republican. So far, Democratic leaders have tried to temper those efforts until after federal investigators conclude their probes into the Capitol attack, which could reveal which, if any, Republicans were involved.
Hoping to head off the floor vote, McCarthy initially tried to deal with the matter internally. During a one-on-one meeting Tuesday evening, McCarthy tried to get Greene to apologize or voluntarily relinquish her committee posts, POLITICO first reported. But she refused, so McCarthy convened an emergency meeting of the GOP Steering Committee, where members discussed removing or reassigning Greene to a new committee.
Senate Republicans on the other hand have been far less reserved in their denouncing of Greene with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell going so far as to say her embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” were a “cancer for the Republican Party.”