Apparently, it’s fine with House Republicans if one of their members advocates violence and touts dangerous, racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories—so long as they do it before entering office. But voting to impeach President Trump isn’t a cardinal sin, either.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told members in a private meeting of House Republicans Wednesday afternoon that he won’t move to remove freshman Georgia GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees, two sources told VICE News.
Hours later, after an emotional and tense meeting, the Republican conference voted overwhelmingly against removing Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from GOP leadership, defeating a push led by Trump loyalists furious that she voted to impeach him.
That means that McCarthy let Greene off with a stern talking-to for her string of violent remarks, and puts the onus on Democrats to force a House vote to remove her from the slots that GOP leaders gave her on the House Budget and Education Committees. But Cheney will keep her slot as the Republican conference chairwoman, the third slot in GOP leadership—and her hand may be strengthened by the comfortable win.
The big-tent strategy may pay political dividends internally for McCarthy, but risks his party being further linked to QAnon and Trump. Now, every Republican member will be forced to go on record in a Thursday floor vote on whether they think Greene should retain her committee assignments. And the 145-61 secret ballot vote for Cheney suggests that McCarthy might have had the political space to remove Greene after all, while showing that there is indeed room for Trump-critical members in the modern GOP, even if members aren’t willing to go to war with their fringier colleagues.
In a public statement, McCarthy condemned Greene’s remarks but made the distinction that she’d made them before she was in office, and said he’d told her to tone down her rhetoric during a private meeting Tuesday evening. He then went on to attack Democrats for moving to remove her from her committees—a move that could have been avoided if he and the Republican conference had done it themselves.
“As a member of Congress, we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard than how she presented herself as a private citizen. Her past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word as well as her actions going forward,” he said.
Greene, 46, has strongly advocated for the QAnon conspiracy theory that holds that a cabal of cannibal pedophiliac Democrats and the “deep state” sought to destroy President Trump.
She’s also suggested that the 9/11 attacks and the Parkland and Sandy Hook school massacres were false flag operations, and that space lasers owned by wealthy Jews were responsible for California wildfires. Those are troubling enough, but she also specifically endorsed political violence on multiple occasions, including liking a Facebook comment that suggested executing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“This is not about whether we find Marjorie Taylor Greene’s speech offensive,” Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said during the Rules Committee hearing. “She has promoted and advocated violence.”
Democrats are furious their GOP colleagues won’t discipline a woman who’s called for violence against them, but are also using the attention Greene has created to try to tar the whole party with her insane remarks and tie them to QAnon.
“After several conversations and literally running away from reporters, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Q-CA) made clear that he is refusing to take action against conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. As a result, the House will continue with a vote to strip Greene of her seat on the esteemed House Committee on Education & Labor and House Committee on Budget,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement before the GOP meeting.
Sources familiar with the tense GOP meeting said that dozens of members rose to speak for and against both Cheney and Greene.
Freshman Montana GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale, who led the petition to remove Cheney from office, blasted her not just for her vote but for how harshly she criticized Trump in the statement announcing her position.
“On the eve of impeachment, the Conference Chair, responsible for messaging, put out a statement that the Democrats and the mainstream media used against us for the entirety of the following day,” Rosendale said, according to prepared remarks. The congressman griped that she’d “made our lives harder” at “a tough time for us,” and had broken the trust of the conference before declaring that “she must step down.”
Cheney was defiant as she addressed the conference and said she wouldn’t apologize for her vote, according to two sources familiar with her remarks. McCarthy and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise both defended her, saying that she should remain in leadership. But two sources said that McCarthy initially spent more time arguing for why Greene shouldn’t be removed from committee than defending his fellow member of leadership, and a source said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger slammed him for it. McCarthy closed the lengthy meeting with a more impassioned defense of Cheney.
The heated GOP meeting ran for close to four hours, with a brief break for a House vote. After that pause, Greene rose to speak, arguing that some of her remarks had been misrepresented but apologizing for her previous promotion of QAnon. As she concluded, three sources say a sizable portion of the House GOP conference rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation.
Even most conservative Republicans don’t want to defend Greene—many condemned her remarks. But they looked to find as many arguments as possible to avoid removing her from committee.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the top Republican on the House Rules Committee, said during a committee meeting on Greene Wednesday afternoon that her remarks were “extraordinarily disturbing” but argued that “there is a different and better way to proceed” than Democrats bringing a full House vote to remove her from her committees. Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski made a process argument that the House Ethics Committee should investigate, while Pennsylvania Rep. Guy Reschenthaler said lawmakers needed to consider a “statute of limitations argument” on Greene’s remarks, most of which were made in the last two years and none of which she’s apologized for.
“This is her first month on the job. She deserves the opportunity to do her duties,” Texas GOP Rep. Brian Babin argued.