Pelosi rips GOP leaders for sticking with Marjorie Taylor GreeneJanuary 28, 2021
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday unloaded on House GOP leaders for elevating freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to a key panel, escalating pressure on Republicans to punish her for a long record of extremist comments.
Pelosi said Greene should not be seated on the House Education Committee after peddling a false conspiracy theory that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 was a hoax — remarks that Democrats say are among Greene’s most horrific in a broader trend of incendiary and at times threatening rhetoric.
“What could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous of a word for what they might be doing?” Pelosi said Thursday of the GOP’s decision to seat her on that committee. “It’s absolutely appalling, and I think the focus has to be on the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the deaths of those children.”
The freshman Republican from Georgia has drawn fury from across the House Democratic Caucus even before she was elected in November. But that anger grew far more intense in recent days, after CNN and Media Matters uncovered Facebook posts in which Greene spread lies that Sandy Hook and other deadly school shootings were staged. Another post showed Greene repeatedly endorsed executing top Democrats — including Pelosi herself — in 2018 and 2019.
Pelosi on Thursday signaled that she is putting the onus directly on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to act, who said through a spokesperson he plans to have a “conversation” with Greene about her “disturbing” comments. But so far, there are no signs that the California Republican has any intentions of stripping her of newly-awarded committee seats — even as at least one member of the GOP conference publicly demands that McCarthy take such a step.
Greene’s office said she has no plans to resign, citing strong and continued support from her constituents back home.
The fate of Greene is fueling tensions throughout the House, which remains on edge just three weeks after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Many Democrats say they are still rattled by the potential role of GOP members in that attack, including Greene, who helped lead the charge in a failed bid to overturn the results of the 2020 election and has been blamed even by some Republicans for helping to incite the insurrection. The House impeached former President Donald Trump for inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol.
Top Democrats, including Pelosi, have said that those GOP lawmakers’ roles in the riot are being investigated, and that members could face consequences if federal law enforcement finds that they were, indeed, involved in any planning.
“The enemy is within the House of Representatives,” Pelosi said. “We have members of Congress who want to bring guns on the floor and have threatened violence against other members.”
In one sign of the palpable anger toward Greene, House Education Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) took the unusual step of denouncing Greene’s appointment to his committee, citing her offensive comments about mass school shootings.
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy must explain how someone with this background represents the Republican party on education issues,” Scott wrote in a scathing statement Thursday.
Some Democrats aren’t waiting around for GOP leaders to act. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) is introducing a resolution to expel Greene from Congress, which would require two-thirds support in the House. And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is preparing legislation to kick Greene off her committees if she is allowed to remain. While expulsion is unlikely, Democrats aren’t ruling out additional measures against Greene.
“She shouldn’t have a public platform to further spread dangerous lies,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chair of the House Ethics Committee who represents Parkland, Fla., where teenagers were gunned down at a high school in 2018. Greene was also seen on video harassing a survivor of that shooting in a January 2019 video that recently resurfaced.
“Not on a House Committee. Not as a Member of Congress,” Deutch said.
The episode is just the latest Greene-induced headache for GOP leaders. After POLITICO last summer uncovered a trove of racist Facebook videos she made, McCarthy and other top Republicans raced to condemn Greene, who was still a congressional candidate at the time.
But then, to the frustration of many House Republicans, McCarthy did little to stop Greene from winning her primary. She then was welcomed into the GOP Conference with open arms, landing seats on the Education panel as well as the House Budget Committee, which will play a key role if Democrats use reconciliation to pass another coronavirus relief package. Greene has also joined the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who endorsed and boosted her candidacy.
McCarthy has urged lawmakers and the media to give Greene a chance, and has already had private conversations with her in an attempt to rein in some of her most extreme rhetoric. Greene did wind up denouncing QAnon, despite earlier embracing some of the movement’s far-right conspiracy theories.
And in recent days, Greene has been scrubbing her social media pages of past offensive remarks — a sign that she’s doing some damage control even as she hits back at critics of her past comments.
But with Democrats ramping up their push to punish Greene, McCarthy now finds himself in a dilemma. The GOP leader has shown he is willing to hold some lawmakers accountable who cross the line: In 2019, McCarthy stripped former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments for questioning why the term “white nationalism” was offensive. Yet King had a long history of incendiary remarks, and it took years for him to face any punishment. King also had few allies on the Hill; to the relief of many in the GOP, lost reelection last cycle in a primary.
Greene has been embraced by conservative hard-liners, and Trump has called her a “future Republican star.” McCarthy could face heat from the right if he tries to discipline her. She may also be likely unlikely to face consequences from Republican leaders anytime soon since the comments in question were made before her time in Congress. Plus, others in the GOP point out that such a move would only turn Greene into a martyr on the right.
Not everyone in the Republican Conference is standing by Greene. Freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) has called her out in private conversations, while Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) has said Greene’s rhetoric could incite further insurrections and called her a “Republican In Name Only.”
“She may be like this new definition of Republican, but that’s kind of a RINO thing,” Kinzinger said Thursday on CNN. “I don’t think she should have the privilege of any committees.”
Democratic leaders, however, may be reluctant to crack down on Greene themselves. That could spur a tit-for-tat with Republicans, who may fire back with censure resolutions and other punitive measures of their own. Instead, Pelosi is trying to place responsibility for acting squarely with the GOP.
Still, Democrats are planning to use the GOP’s embrace of Greene as a campaign issue in 2022 by trying to tie the entire party to QAnon.
“Minority Leader McCarthy and NRCC Chair Tom Emmer have not only caved to the mob and welcomed QAnon conspiracist Marjorie Taylor Green into their caucus, they’re putting her front and center as a key player,” said DCCC spokesperson Brooke Goren. “Americans have died at the hand of the QAnon mob, now vulnerable House Republicans will have to answer for that violence.”