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DJ House Votes To Strip Marjorie Taylor Greene From Committees -- 2nd Update

· 02/04/2021 20:10
By Kristina Peterson

WASHINGTON -- The House voted Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, delivering a severe rebuke to the Georgia Republican hours after she said she regretted her past embrace of conspiracy theories.

The House voted 230-199 to remove Mrs. Greene from the budget and education committees, with 11 Republicans siding with Democrats. The move will diminish Mrs. Greene's ability to shape legislation and work with other lawmakers, sidelining her just weeks into her first term in office.

Democrats said the move was a necessary response to counter the violent rhetoric and misinformation that helped foment the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, since GOP leaders declined to sanction her. Republicans warned it could spark future retaliation.

"Yesterday, the Republican Conference chose to do nothing. So, today the House must do something," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said on the House floor Thursday.

The vote capped a tumultuous week for House Republicans, whose internal turmoil over the party's identity spilled into the open as GOP lawmakers struggled with how to contend with dueling factions of their party. In an hourslong meeting Wednesday night, where Mrs. Greene addressed some of her past comments, House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) also trounced an effort from some allies of former President Donald Trump to oust her from leadership over her vote last month to impeach him.

Thursday evening, Ms. Cheney voted to keep Mrs. Greene on committees, saying it was up to Republicans to police their ranks and that Democrats had overstepped.

The Democrats "have no business determining which Republicans sit on committees," Ms. Cheney said Thursday. "This vote today sets a dangerous precedent for this institution that Democrats may regret when Republicans regain the majority."

In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Mrs. Greene said she regretted posts she made about QAnon, the far-right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs. Mrs. Greene said she realized in 2018 that she was receiving misinformation and stopped believing it.

"I was allowed to believe things that weren't true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them and that is absolutely what I regret," she said Thursday, wearing a "Free Speech" mask. "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, because I've lived a very good life that I'm proud of."

Democrats criticized Mrs. Greene's speech, saying her remarks fell short of an apology. "It was unpersuasive," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.). "It is so easy to say 'I am sorry.' Those are three important words in our culture."

The 11 Republicans who voted with Democrats largely represented competitive districts, including a cluster of lawmakers from New York and Florida. Some of Mrs. Greene's fellow GOP freshmen voted to oust her, including Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Young Kim of California, and Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar of Florida. Only three of the 11 Republicans had voted last month to impeach Mr. Trump: Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko of New York.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) said on Twitter that he voted to remove Mrs. Greene from committees because her "comments are unacceptable," but said Democrats who make inflammatory comments should be treated similarly.

House Democrats' campaign arm began targeting some vulnerable Republicans this week to tie them to QAnon.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) opted Wednesday not to remove Mrs. Greene from her committees over her incendiary past comments, but urged her to publicly denounce them.

Republicans warned that Democrats would be setting a dangerous precedent by unilaterally ousting lawmakers from the other party off committees, and that such a move would open the door for retaliation, should Republicans retake the House majority next year.

"If we are now going to start judging what other members have said before they are members of Congress, I think it will be a hard time for the Democrats to place anybody on committee," Mr. McCarthy told reporters."

Democrats said they had urged Republican leaders to remove Mrs. Greene on their own, but that GOP inaction forced them to hold the vote.

"I remain profoundly concerned about House Republican leadership's acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters Thursday. She said that she wasn't concerned about the possibility of GOP retribution. "If any of our members threaten the safety of other members, we'll be the first ones to take them off of committee," she said.

Stripping committee assignments is seen as a severe punishment by taking away a lawmaker's ability to shape and influence legislation. Former GOP Iowa Rep. Steve King was stripped of his assignments by fellow Republicans in 2019 after questioning what was wrong with white supremacy. He lost his primary in 2020.

A loyalist to former President Trump, Mrs. Greene emerged as the most contentious new House Republican before arriving in Washington. While running for the GOP nomination last year, her online activity began to draw attention, including posts tying her to QAnon and other conspiracy theories, as well as comments vilifying Muslims and other groups.

Recently more of her past social-media posts have drawn attention, including remarks casting doubt on who was responsible for mass shootings, condoning violence against Democratic leaders and questioning whether a plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. In one post she speculated whether California wildfires were caused by lasers connected to the Rothschilds, a family often the subject of anti-Semitic tropes.

On the House floor Thursday, Mrs. Greene also addressed some of those past posts. She said that school shootings "are absolutely real" and that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, did occur. "It's a tragedy for anyone to say it didn't happen," she said.

Mr. McCarthy met with Mrs. Greene on Tuesday night and said Wednesday that he had made clear to her that comments she made in the past wouldn't be tolerated now that she is a member of Congress.

Democrats have also criticized her behavior since becoming a member of Congress. Mrs. Greene has scoffed at wearing a mask in the Capitol complex, including when lawmakers were trapped together in a room on Jan. 6. Several House Democrats later tested positive for the coronavirus. She also repeated Mr. Trump's unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that they allege incited the violent rioting of the U.S. Capitol that day.

Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday that he had offered a compromise to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) in which Mrs. Greene would be moved from the education committee to the small-business panel. Democrats dismissed the proposal.

Some Republicans made clear that if they win back control of the chamber, they will seek to strip contentious House Democrats from panels. A group of House GOP lawmakers introduced a measure that would leave Mrs. Greene on her committees but remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ms. Omar drew criticism in 2019 when she made comments suggesting that lawmakers' support for Israel was driven by money from a pro-Israel group. She later apologized.

"It's a ridiculous distraction," Ms. Omar said Thursday of the GOP provision, which she called a "racist, Islamophobic, hateful fueled smear."

Some Republicans said they hoped the vote wouldn't trigger an intensifying partisan battle over committee assignments.

"I would hope my colleagues on the Republican side do not go down that path," Rep. Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) said Thursday. Mr. Reed said that he condemned Mrs. Greene's past comments but wouldn't vote to remove her from committees. "What I will try to do is remind my colleagues that just because one side does it, doesn't mean it's right for the other side to do it."

Write to Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 04, 2021 20:10 ET (01:10 GMT)

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