WASHINGTON – The Democratic-led House Thursday voted mostly along party lines to remove Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committees following a charged floor debate rife with finger-pointing and threats of repercussions.
The vote was 230-199 with 11 Republicans joining every Democrat in stripping her from the Education & Labor Committee and the Budget Committee for a litany of incendiary, conspiratorial and menacing social media posts before she was elected.
The floor debate in a chamber already riven by division and mistrust turned raw as lawmakers took turns arguing not just about Greene’s particular conduct but what it said about House members who demanded – or objected to – her punishment.
At one point, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., walked the well of the House floor holding a poster board depicting a since-removed Facebook campaign ad by Greene showing her holding an assault weapon next to photos of three Democratic Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, part of a group known as part of the “Squad.” The ad read: “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”
“I urge my colleagues to look at that image and tell me what message you think it sends,” Hoyer said as he addressed his Republican colleagues. “Imagine your faces on this poster.”
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Calling it a move by the “cancel culture,” Republicans countered that one party had no right to forcibly remove a member of the other party from committees without bipartisan consent.
“This resolution sets a a dangerous new standard that will only deepen division within this House,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “For all their talk about norms and institutions, it’s the Democrats who’ve acted to undermine the People’s House at every turn.”
But 11 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to remove Greene:
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
- Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.
- Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Fla.
- Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-N.Y.
- Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y.
- Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif.
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
- Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y.
- Rep. Maria Salazar, R-Fla.
- Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
- Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.
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Faced with the loss of her committee assignments, Greene came to the floor earlier Thursday to disavow some of her previous incendiary posts on social media in a last-ditch effort to avoid punishment.
Though she expressed some regret, Greene never apologized during a speech on the House floor.
“During my campaign, I never said any of these things,” she said. “Since I have been elected for Congress. 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.”
Before joining Congress, Greene had posted videos of her questioning whether the 9-11 terrorist attacks ever happened, stalking and taunting a teen survivor of the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and suggesting that space lasers were causing deadly wildfires in California. She has said school shootings were staged by Democrats to promote gun laws and that “the stage was being set” to hang former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
They were among a trove of inflammatory posts unearthed by news outlets in recent weeks that prompted Thursday’s vote to remove her from the committees.
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Several Republicans who spoke condemned Greene’s earlier posts but said she deserved leniency because they were made before she was sworn in. They called the unprecedented move by one party to unseat a member of another nothing but a “partisan power grab” by the Democratic majority more interested in revenge than forgiveness or fairness.
“I would remind them what (GOP Senate Leader Mitch) McConnell said when Democrats voted to nuke the judicial filibuster: ‘You’ll regret this. And you may regret this sooner than you might think,'” McCarthy said.
The vote to remove the Georgia freshman from both committees comes the day after Republican leaders opted not to punish her during a contentious closed-door meeting.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were compelled to act. She said she was “profoundly disturbed” Republicans did nothing to muzzle Greene, whom she dubbed a “QAnon adherent” during a news conference Thursday morning before the House vote.
Pelosi, who is leading the charge to remove her from the committees, herself was a target. Greene “liked” a comment in January 2019 that said Pelosi should be taken out with a “bullet to the head.” In a video around that time, Greene said Pelosi was “a traitor to our country, she’s guilty of treason,” saying it was “a crime punishable by death.”
Sounding at times contrite and combative, Greene said Thursday the media had distorted her record by taking her posts out of context. But she also admitted she naively believed too much of what she read and absorbed on the internet that played into her deep mistrust of the government, including posts on a QAnon site in 2017 disputing allegations that then-president Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
“The problem with that is I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions; 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.”
Greene spoke for 10 minutes, wearing a mask with the words “FREE SPEECH” on it. She talked about her deep admiration for Trump, her unbridled opposition to abortion and her mistrust of mainstream media. She also called school shootings “absolutely real” and that the 2001 terrorist attacks “absolutely happened.”
“I remember that day, crying all day long watching it on the news,” she said.
Until Thursday’s floor speech, Greene had kept mostly silent amid the uproar though her campaign sent out a fundraising appeal Wednesday.
McCarthy told reporters after a meeting Wednesday with House Republicans that he was willing to move her from the Education and Labor Committee and put her on the Small Business Committee, a less important panel, but Democrats rejected that compromise. He went on to denounce QAnon conspiracies and said Greene apologized to Republican lawmakers during the meeting.
“If we’re going to start judging what other members have said before they’re even a member of Congress, I think it’s going to be hard for the Democrats to place anybody on a committee,” he said.
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Pelosi said she’s not worried about the precedent the move against Greene might set or that Republicans would try the same tactic whenever they regain the majority.
“Not at all,” she told reporters Thursday. “If any our members threaten the safety of other members, we’ll be the first ones to take them off the committee. That’s it.”
During her floor remarks Thursday, Greene equated the QAnon conspiracy movement to the mainstream media. News outlets, she said, can present snippets of information which can be distorted to present a particular point of view, she said.
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That drew a rebuke from Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern, saying the comparison was “beyond the pale.”
For some Democrats, Greene’s floor remarks were not enough. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he found Greene’s speech “unpersuasive” and wished she had said she was sorry.
“I have held out hope that she would confront her colleagues and offer a sincere apology and that did not happen,” Butterfield said.