Just days after Iowa Republican Steve King made comments sympathetic to white supremacy in 2019, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took swift action to make sure he was stripped of his committees. Now, just over two years later, McCarthy and House Republicans are floundering on whether quick action needs to be taken to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee posts following reports on a string of outlandish comments.
On social media, the Georgia Republican has supported violence against Democrats, including when she liked a Facebook comment in 2019 that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove Nancy Pelosi from the speakership. Greene has expressed agreement that a 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a “false flag” operation and embraced baseless QAnon conspiracy theories. Greene has also promulgated racist and anti-Semitic views.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer spoke Wednesday morning with McCarthy, and the two could not reach agreement on what to do about Greene. As a result, the Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote Thursday to strip Greene of her committees.
Hoyer said Greene “has placed many members in fear for their welfare.”
Meanwhile McCarthy, the top House Republican, has not removed Greene from her committees like he did with King in 2019. (King went on to lose a GOP primary in Iowa the following year.)
“I understand that Marjorie’s comments have caused deep wounds to many and as a result, I offered Majority Leader Hoyer a path to lower the temperature and address these concerns,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Instead of coming together to do that, the Democrats are choosing to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party.”
The House Rules Committee on Wednesday approved a rule paving the way for a Thursday floor debate and vote on whether to force Greene off of the Education and Labor and Budget committees. The measure, H. Res. 72, was introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and only requires a simple majority to be adopted.
House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern said that when other examples of misconduct have come to light — citing the cases of King and former Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., — both parties did the right thing by keeping them off committees.
“But when it comes to Congresswoman Greene, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is unwilling or unable to do the right thing. This is not a close call,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “Serving on a committee is not a right. It is a privilege. When a member talks about school shootings being false flag operations, they should lose the privilege of serving on the Education and Labor Committee.”
Wasserman Schultz’s resolution raises a privileged question and could have gone directly to the House floor for a vote. The resolution was referred to the Ethics Committee and can go through the panel, but that is not required. The Rules Committee is extremely powerful, able to consider any piece of legislation or approve a rule that permits immediate consideration of the matter. That is what the Rules Committee did Wednesday.
Though Republican members of the Rules Committee denounced Greene’s actions, they argued that the process was wrong and that it set a dangerous precedent for the majority party to remove a minority party member from committees.
Rules ranking member Tom Cole called Greene’s comments “repugnant,” but the Oklahoma Republican said the matter should first be adjudicated by the Ethics Committee.
House Ethics Chairman Ted Deutch — whose Florida district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — testified before the Rules Committee that Greene’s actions have needlessly traumatized families who lost children to gun violence.
“I have cried with the families of Parkland, and I have grieved with them,” Deutch said. “And in my wallet, I still to this day carry a sheet of paper with the names of their loved ones, so that they’re never forgotten in Congress.”
Deutch went on to name the students who were killed. Adding fuel to the case against Greene was a video that reemerged of her accosting David Hogg, one of the Parkland survivors, near the Capitol in 2019. Greene called Hogg a “coward.”
House Ethics ranking member Jackie Walorski lamented that the resolution seeking to remove Greene from committees had not been vetted by the Ethics panel.
“This committee has not even had its first organizing meeting for the 117th Congress, but yet the chair seeks to bring this matter before the House without proper committee consideration and jurisdiction and without due process,” the Indiana Republican said.
Walorski then said that Greene’s behavior — even if considered by the Ethics Committee — would not fall under the panel’s jurisdiction.
“Most, if not all of the statements, were made in 2018 and 2019 when Ms. Greene was a regular citizen of the United States,” she said. “The timing of the statements does not make them right, but the timing of the statements does put them outside the Ethics Committee’s jurisdiction.”
A resolution by Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., to expel Greene for her conduct has almost 70 co-sponsors and will be introduced later this week, according to a spokesperson for Gomez.
A resolution for expulsion, censure or reprimand need not go through the House Ethics Committee and can be called up by the sponsor. As it involves the conduct of a member, it is a privileged question and should have precedence over all questions, except for motions to adjourn. This applies to Gomez’s resolution, which would require a two-thirds majority to be approved.
Expulsion is not likely and is an infrequent occurrence. Twenty members of Congress — 15 senators and five House lawmakers — have been expelled from their respective chambers, according to a Congressional Research Service report from 2018.
The late Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is the most recent example of a member evicted from the House. In 2002, the Ohio Democrat was expelled following convictions for bribery, illegal gratuities, defrauding the government and other crimes.
Reprimand and the more severe sanction of censure are other forms of floor-level discipline, and those both require a simple majority. Former New York Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel was censured in 2010, and Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert was reprimanded in 2020.
McCarthy, in January 2019, recommended to the Republican Steering Committee that King should be taken off his committees, a recommendation that was accepted by the GOP panel. “We believe in swift action, because we do not believe in his words,” the California Republican said at the time.
King made his comments while serving as an elected lawmaker. In contrast, many of Greene’s actions and comments were from before her election to the House.
Former Reps. Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter were removed from their respective committees by Speaker Paul D. Ryan in August 2018 after the two Republicans were indicted on criminal charges within weeks of each other.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.