Republican stripped of U.S. House committee posts over racist, violent rhetoric

Republican U.S. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of her House committee positions Thursday over her racist and conspiracy-laden theories in a vote that mostly played out along party lines. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia says she's 'a very regular American'

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was removed Thursday from her committee posts over her incendiary remarks supporting violence against Democrats. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Republican U.S. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of two high-profile committee assignments Thursday over her racist and conspiracy-laden theories, including support for violence against Democrats, in a vote that mostly played out along party lines. 

The final vote tally was 230-199. Just 11 Republicans joined the full Democratic caucus to support her removal. 

Prior to the vote, rather than defending Greene's remarks, some Republicans complained bitterly about the precedent that the Democratic effort would set by meddling in the affairs of a rival party.

"Never before in the history of this House has the majority abused its power in this way," lamented House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who also condemned Greene's comments and said they "do not represent the views of my party."

"You'll regret this, and you may regret this sooner than you think," he added.

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to take action himself to remove Taylor Greene from the committees, prompting the vote. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Regrets, but no apology

Earlier, Greene said during a floor speech that she regrets some "words of the past," but she did not explicitly apologize for her violent rhetoric.

Alternating between contrition and defiance, the newly elected Georgia Republican asserted that she was "a very regular American" who posted conspiracy theories from QAnon and other sources before she began campaigning for Congress, but said those views did not represent her own.

She also looked to shift blame while falsely equating her own endorsement of violence against Democrats with those in the party who supported racial justice protests over the summer, which sometimes turned violent.

She pronounced the media "just as guilty as QAnon of presenting truth and lies." QAnon's core theory embraces the lie that Democrats are tied to a global sex trafficking ring that also involves Satanism and cannibalism.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern noted that while Greene expressed regret over her remarks and claimed to have had an epiphany that QAnon was false in 2018, many of her comments, including those endorsing violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were more recent.

"I did not hear an apology or denouncement for the insinuation that political opponents should be violently dealt with," said McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat. "It's not ancient history. She continues to fund-raise off this stuff."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said prior to the vote that she was 'profoundly concerned' by Republicans' 'acceptance of an extreme conspiracy theorist.' (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

Democrats deliver an ultimatum

Democrats gave Republicans an ultimatum this week: Strip Greene of her committee assignments, or they would. Bipartisan pressure built after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Greene's "loony lies" a "cancer" for the party.

But McCarthy ruled out taking action. Instead, he accused Democrats of a "partisan power grab" for targeting Greene.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she was "profoundly concerned" by Republicans' "acceptance of an extreme conspiracy theorist."

"If any of our members threatened the safety of other members, we'd be the first ones to take them off a committee," Pelosi said hours before the planned vote.

Cast doubt on school shootings

Greene was on the education and labour committee and the budget committee. Democrats were especially aghast about her assignment to the former, considering the past doubt she cast on school shootings in Florida and Connecticut.

The political imperative for Democrats was clear: Greene's support for violence and fictions were dangerous and merited punishment. Democrats and researchers said there was no apparent precedent for the full House removing a lawmaker from a committee, a step usually taken by their party leaders.

At one point prior to the vote, the No. 2 Democratic leader Steny Hoyer strode to the Republican side of the chamber carrying a poster of a Greene Facebook post from last year. "Squad's Worst Nightmare," Greene had written in the post, which showed her holding an AR-15 firearm next to pictures of three of the four Democratic lawmakers, all young women of colour, who've been nicknamed "The Squad."

"They are people. They are our colleagues," Hoyer said. He mimicked Greene's pose holding the weapon and said, "I have never, ever seen that before."

Steny Hoyer mimics holding a gun next to an enlarged Tweet as he speaks during debate ahead of the House vote to punish Greene, in this frame grab from video shot inside the House Chamber, February 4, 2021. (House TV via Reuters)

The calculation was more complicated for Republicans.

Though Trump left the White House two weeks ago, his devoted followers are numerous among the party's voters, and he and Greene are allies. McCarthy hopes Republican victories in the 2022 midterm elections will make him speaker.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole said Democrats were setting a precedent by punishing lawmakers for statements made before they were even candidates for Congress. 

Committee assignments are crucial for lawmakers for shaping legislation affecting their districts, creating a national reputation and raising campaign contributions. Even social media stars like Greene could find it harder to define themselves without the spotlights that committees provide.

With files from CBC News