McConnell, Dems Up Pressure On McCarthy As Big Greene Confrontation Approaches

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 6: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) before U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the East Room of the ... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 6: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) before U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the East Room of the White House one day after the U.S. Senate acquitted him on two articles of impeachment, on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. After five months of congressional hearings and investigations about President Trumps dealings with Ukraine, the U.S. Senate formally acquitted the president on Wednesday of charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
February 2, 2021 11:32 a.m.

In a set of unusual moves, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) are upping the pressure on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to do something about the House’s QAnon problem ahead of a Wednesday Republican conference meeting.

“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said Monday, adding without naming Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) that someone with her beliefs is “not living in reality” or strengthening the party.

A recent tranche of Greene’s unearthed social media comments show that she liked calls for the execution of Democratic politicians. In one comment, she urged patience to a user who asked if it was time to hang former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Hoyer took things a step further the same day, demanding that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) strip Greene of her committee assignments — including a much reviled one to the House Education and Labor Committee — or else the issue will be brought to the whole House floor. Democrats have scheduled a House Rules Committee hearing Wednesday to vote on a resolution to strip her of the assignments.

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David Damron, spokesperson for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) who wrote the resolution told TPM that a vote on it — should it get to the floor — would only require a simple majority, making it very likely to pass in the Democratic-majority House. The resolution alone would strip her of her committee assignments, he added.

A floor vote would also force every House Republican to go on the record about whether she should be punished.

“It is my hope and expectation that Republicans will do the right thing and hold Rep. Greene accountable, and we will not need to consider this resolution,” Hoyer said in a statement. “But we are prepared to do so if necessary.”

Both moves are well outside the bounds of normal congressional behavior, and underscore the anger riled up by Greene’s radical statements. 

Meanwhile, Greene has, expectedly, shown no remorse. For years, she built her reputation on unapologetic, Trumpian, extreme social media posts, accruing a significant following. She has kept in that mold for the brief, sensationalistic time she’s been a member of Congress.

“If Democrats remove me from my committees, I can assure them that the precedent they are setting will be used extensively against members on their side once we regain the majority after the 2022 elections,” she tweeted Tuesday.

She has seemed to revel in the attention, fundraising off of it and reportedly having a “great” call with former President Donald Trump. 

Trump’s approval of Greene, coupled with the condemnation from McConnell and Hoyer, puts McCarthy in a sticky situation. McCarthy has balked at holding the Trumpy wing of the party to any account, quickly backpedaling from his initial comments about the former President bearing some responsibility for the Capitol attack. Since then, he’s gone hat in hand to see Trump in Florida, apparently worried about the 2022 midterms without Trump’s support. He has so far refused to take any action against Greene, planning to have a conversation with her this week.

Adding another layer of pressure, there is some reported concern among House members about punishing a member for something she did before she was elected — but Democrats are furious at the explicit threats.

McConnell also waded into the other intra-party fight consuming McCarthy’s caucus Monday: dealing with Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) yes vote on Trump’s impeachment. Some members, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who flew to Wyoming last week, are trying to get Cheney removed from party leadership and encouraging a primary challenge in 2022. 

“Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them,” McConnell said in a statement. “She is an important leader in our party and in our nation. I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation.”

In the three-line statement, McConnell’s careful inclusion that he’s looking forward to “continuing to work with her” is a clear signal to McCarthy where McConnell comes down on removing Cheney from leadership. 

McCarthy has been notably lukewarm in his defense of Cheney so far.

The fight over how to deal with both Greene and Cheney highlights the schism rending the Republican party, as it decides whose party it wants to be.

Correction: An original version of this article misidentified the office in which spokesperson David Damron works.

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