On Wednesday night, 61 Republican lawmakers—30 percent of the conference—voted in favor of Rep. Liz Cheney’s removal as the third-ranking leader in the House GOP.
Less than 24 hours later, nearly 100 percent of the GOP conference voted to keep Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on her committees after Democrats forced a vote on Thursday, prompted by a string of reports unearthing her past endorsement of outlandish conspiracy theories and threats of violence against top Democrats. It’s the first time the majority party has stripped a minority member of their committee posts. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the move: Reps. Adam Kinzinger (IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), John Katko (NY), Chris Jacobs (NY), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Fred Upton (MI), Mario Diaz Balart (FL), Carlos Gimenez (FL), Maria Salazar (NY), Chris Smith (NJ), and Young Kim (CA).
The resolution to remove Greene was approved 230-199, and the freshman from Georgia will no longer sit on the House Education and Labor or the House Budget Committees.
In a floor speech before the vote, Greene sought to distance herself from her past positions—clarifying she believes the 9/11 terror attacks were real and disavowing the QAnon conspiracy theory—while refusing to apologize or acknowledge a host of other comments and posts that have infuriated Democrats.
The vote effectively ends days of drama over what, if any, repercussions Greene might face for her mounting, outrageously offensive paper trail on social media. She was known to be an extreme conspiracy theorist even before her election, but scrutiny of her record grew after a CNN report last week that revealed that before taking office, she said recent school shootings like those in Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas were staged “false flag” operations.
But Greene’s expulsion from committees—which ice her out from the main venue through which lawmakers do their work—figures to poison the well even further between the two parties, a month after the Jan. 6 attack that had already fomented distrust and resentment across the aisle.
Over the howls of Republicans who increasingly closed ranks around Greene, Democrats framed Thursday’s vote as an unfortunate but necessary step they had no choice but to take—because Republican leadership refused to address the outrageous past conduct of one of their own.
The second ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), underscored the stakes of the vote when he appeared on the House floor during the debate on Thursday bearing a poster of a photo Greene posted to social media, in which she posed with a gun next to images of the progressive “Squad.”
“When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his GOP colleagues seated on the floor. “Imagine it's a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”
For days, Democrats had put pressure on the House minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), to meet the standard he set out two years ago, when he removed former Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committees after he defended white supremacy. On Tuesday, House Democratic leaders made clear that if McCarthy wouldn’t punish Greene, they would do it themselves, forcing every GOP lawmaker on the record about her conduct in the process.
But McCarthy ultimately rallied to Greene’s defense: In a Wednesday statement, he said he condemned her past remarks but agreed to give her a chance—while casting the effort to remove her from committees as an unprecedented “power grab.” That, plus remarks from Greene during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night that earned a standing ovation, laid the groundwork for the overwhelming show of support she received from GOP colleagues on Thursday.
Indeed, many GOP lawmakers—McCarthy most especially—seemed to forget what was problematic about Greene in the first place. Last August, the GOP leader declared there was “no place in the Republican party for QAnon.” Appearing Wednesday night on Fox News, he said, “I don’t even know what it is.”
But because McCarthy allowed a floor vote on Greene’s fitness for committees, many Republicans are now tied to her in a way they dreaded. Democrats have openly stated their intention to make the GOP the “Party of Q” in advance of the 2022 midterms, seeking to damage their prospects by tying vulnerable lawmakers to the party’s most extreme member.
That effort is now easier, with most Republicans on the record defending Greene.