House GOPers Coalesce Behind Nonsensical ‘Precedent’ Argument To Avoid Voting Greene Off Committees

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 4: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is seen during a group photo with freshmen members of the House Republican Conference on the House steps of the Capitol on Monday, January 4, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is seen during a group photo with freshmen members of the House Republican Conference on the House steps of the Capitol on Monday, January 4, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Ca... Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is seen during a group photo with freshmen members of the House Republican Conference on the House steps of the Capitol on Monday, January 4, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 3, 2021 5:16 p.m.

House Republicans are tipping their cards on how they’ll avoid voting Rep. Marjorie Greene (R-GA) off of her committees, notwithstanding the startling bloodlust of her social media comments.

Republican members of the House Rules Committee all raised nonsensical arguments about the bad precedent of stripping her committee assignments through a floor vote, a neat way to avoid debating the merits of what Greene has done.

Sure enough, just after the hearing ended, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a statement that he would not be punishing Greene at all, criticizing the coming floor vote as a hypocritical waste of time.

The majority-Democratic committee passed the resolution at the end of the hearing anyway, setting up a Thursday floor vote.

“I find Congresswoman Greene’s comments very offensive,” Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OH). “But the action the majority is taking today raises questions.” 

That was the shape of most of the comments made by Republicans on the committee: her comments were terrible but. 

Cole said that the floor vote would represent a “new standard not only for what members of Congress say before they’re elected, but what rights the majority party have to dictate rights to the minority party.” 

Cole and other committee Republicans advocated for the issue to be kicked to the ethics committee, a bipartisan panel, to conduct an investigation and adjudicate the case. 

Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) reacted incredulously to the Republican argument, noting repeatedly that in the past, the opposing party hasn’t even had to get involved because party leaders punished the unruly members themselves.

“We are here today, to be honest with you, because Republican leadership has not dealt with this,” McGovern said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the author of the resolution stripping Greene of her committees, summed up the Republicans’ posture: “When you don’t have a leg to stand on, you argue process.”

And the Republican committee members were singing from the same precedent songbook. 

“It really does seem to me that this would be setting a new precedent and one that could be dangerous,” said Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN). “It’s a precedent where a member of the majority party can punish a member of the minority party by removing them from their committee assignments, and I really don’t believe that this precedent is in the best interest of the body.”

“If we are gonna go down this route, the precedent is set and we do need to establish a statute of limitations,” added Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) of the comments members make before being elected.

Democrats even offered up that the situation may be different if Greene showed any remorse, but absent that, they need to force accountability if McCarthy won’t. 

“She’s doubled down!” McGovern exclaimed, referring to Greene’s daily fundraising blasts centered on the drama. 

The Democratic committee members had an odd bedfellow in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who, without naming her, called any member with Greene’s beliefs a “cancer” on the party.

Many Democrats cited his statement, as well as those of other Senate Republicans. Taking a cue from McConnell, many Senate Republicans — particularly members of GOP leadership — have been comfortable condemning Greene and the comments she made. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) called her a “nutty” “embarrassment to our party,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) mused about if “they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said that Greene “doesn’t represent the party.” 

House Republicans, lacking a public cue from McCarthy, have generally been more reticent. On Wednesday though, multiple members even outside the (virtual) committee hearing room started to echo the “slippery slope” precedent argument.

“All self-righteous Republicans beware: if this can happen to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, it can happen to any one of us,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) in a lengthy statement. 

Some also promoted a false equivalency with comments made in 2019 by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), criticized as playing into anti-Semitic tropes, for which she was admonished by party leadership. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), actually introduced a resolution to swap Greene’s name out of the committee-stripping resolution and put Omar’s in.

Across the aisle, Democrats seemed unified. Some, including Omar, have framed Greene’s comments as a threat to their personal safety. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MA) on Wednesday repeatedly emphasized the “fear” individual members feel serving alongside Greene.

That emotion, especially just weeks out from the Capitol insurrection, has ratcheted up the tensions of an already fraught debate.

“The new precent here is that a member of this House is calling for assassinations,” McGovern said heatedly. “That’s the new precedent.”

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