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The vote on Greene, who has refused to publicly back down from unrelenting criticism over a laundry list of extreme remarks and conspiracy claims she made prior to taking office, marks an inflection point within the Republican Party as it struggles to define itself in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
At a lengthy meeting Wednesday night, the House Republican caucus voted in a secret ballot on whether Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., should keep her leadership role after she voted to impeach Trump for inciting the deadly U.S. Capitol riot. Cheney survived the vote by a margin of 145-61, NBC News reported.
During the meeting, Greene, R-Ga., disavowed some of her most incendiary positions, NBC reported, including her support for the outlandish pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy and her reported suggestion that some school shootings had been staged. Greene’s speech at the meeting was met with applause, sources told NBC.
Media outlets also reported that Greene in 2018 had suggested that wildfires in California had perhaps been caused by laser beams.
In public, Greene has remained defiant, declaring Wednesday that “we owe them no apologies” and “we will never back down,” referring to criticism from Democrats and the media. She has also frequently touted a fundraising haul amid the furor.
Democrats demanded that Greene be kicked off the Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee, warning that they would take action if none was forthcoming from her own party.
Republicans had hoped to avoid a vote on the resolution. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had proposed that the GOP strip Greene of her Education Committee assignment if she could remain on the Budget Committee, a source told NBC News. Democrats rejected that offer.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that after he spoke with McCarthy, “it is clear there is no alternative to holding a Floor vote on the resolution to remove Rep. Greene from her committee assignments.”
The resolution passed through the House Rules Committee after a hearing later that day, over the objections of Republican members who argued about process and warned that it set a dangerous precedent for a majority party to rescind a minority member’s committee placements.
Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., countered that McCarthy was “unwilling or unable to do the right thing,” forcing Democrats to act.
“When a person encourages talk about shooting a member in the head, they should lose the right to serve on any committee,” McGovern said. “If this isn’t the bottom line, I don’t know where the hell the bottom line is.”
Most Republicans in the hearing declined to defend Greene’s comments themselves. Ranking Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma said he found her remarks “deeply offensive.” But Republican Rep. Brian Babin said of Greene: “This is her first month on the job. She deserves the opportunity to do her duties.”
Greene claims she recently spoke with Trump and has his support. Trump, who lost his race against President Joe Biden but has never formally conceded, retains overwhelming support from Republicans even after the riot at the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, which left five dead.
But other prominent Republicans have been less supportive of Greene. Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Greene’s “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” calling them “cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”
McCarthy, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, said he “unequivocally” condemns Greene’s many controversial remarks about “school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”
He went on to criticize Democrats for moving to sanction Greene, accusing the majority party of a partisan power grab.
McCarthy said he explained to Greene during a Tuesday evening meeting that “as a member of Congress we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
“Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word,” McCarthy said in his statement.
Democrats, meanwhile, appear eager to present Greene as the poster child for the GOP.
McCarthy has chosen to make House Republicans “the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon,” Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday, “and Rep. Greene is in the driver’s seat.”
“I remain profoundly concerned about House Republican leadership’s acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists,” Pelosi said at a press briefing Thursday.
“Particularly disturbing is their eagerness to reward a QAnon adherent, a 9/11 truther, a harasser of child survivors of school shootings, to give them valued committee positions, including — who could imagine they would put such a person on the Education Committee?”