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U.S. Politics – U.S. Congress

February 2, 2021


By Nathaniel Ballantyne

Today the fate of two Republican women will be decided for diametrically opposite reasons. One, for racism, espousing dangerous conspiracy theories and endorsing violence against Democratic members of Congress. The other, for daring to impeach DONALD TRUMP for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot.  The women are expected by their Republican peers to grovel for their sins (real or imagined), which says a ton about the state of the Republican Party right now. 

QAnon conspiracy theorist-turned-Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) has made racist comments, questioned the veracity of school shootings and endorsed the idea of harming Democrats. This week, she’s been doing something of a tap dance, making an 11th-hour attempt at just enough damage  control to save her committee seats while also warning Republicans not to mess with her.

On the damage-control front: Greene has scrubbed her social media posts, and she contacted the mother of one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting to tell her she didn’t believe the tragedy was a hoax (which Greene had previously suggested). At the same time, Greene has advertised Trump’s support for her — a not-so-subtle hint to the GOP and House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY to back off the fuck off.

THEN THERE’S REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), who faces a reckoning at a fuller GOP Conference meeting Wednesday after voting her conscience to condemn Trump. Republicans appear to be chiding Cheney more than Greene, which tells you what you need to know about the current GOP — who effectively runs it and what its priorities are.

SO WHAT WILL MCCARTHY DO? His own leadership team doesn’t seem to know, per multiple calls we made Monday night. But here’s what we gleaned from our reporting. On Greene, McCarthy’s office is considering possible rebukes. But there’s also wariness of punishing a member for something she said before she got to Congress. McCarthy has indicated he wants Greene to show contrition when he meets with her this week. But does this mean going on TV to recant all the conspiracies and harmful words she’s espoused? We’ll see.

On Cheney, we hear McCarthy is eager for his conference to move on. It’s unclear whether he’ll ask his No. 3 to apologize for her vote (though Trump supporters certainly will). Expect McCarthy to steer the conversation toward the promise of a Republican takeover of the House in 2022 and how a prolonged focus on Cheney instead of JOE BIDEN’S agenda will hurt that cause.

Cheney, meanwhile, has been reaching out to rank-and-file lawmakers ahead of her sit-down with McCarthy, sources tell us. We hear she won’t apologize for her vote to impeach but will listen to the frustrations of fellow Republicans. Tone will be critical here.  Imagine, however, if the GOP strips Cheney of her leadership post and doesn’t touch Greene. Democrats would have a field day. And Republicans would be tagged as the party of QAnon for the long haul.

As if McCarthy weren’t in enough of a management pickle, Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL weighed in on the House GOP’s personnel matters in a pair of strongly worded statements Monday. One got Cheney’s back, describing her as a “a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them.” The other denounced Greene without naming her, calling the embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” a “cancer for the Republican Party.”

It might not matter if McCarthy decides to allow Greene to keep her committee posts. As our Hill team scooped, House Majority Leader STENY HOYER delivered an ultimatum to McCarthy on Monday: If he doesn’t strip Greene from her committees, Democrats will hold a vote to do it themselves. But can we just pause for a moment to say how extraordinary it is for one party to dictate how the other party handles its committee assignments? 

Greene has said some really crazy stuff. But members on both sides are already privately talking about how this could set the House down the path of mutually assured destruction, with one party going directly after members of the other depending on which side’s in power. It would be a different story if Greene had said the things she did while in office; her most controversial utterances were from before she arrived in Congress.

So why are they doing this? Democratic leaders had been facing the possibility that their members would force a vote to expel Greene from Congress — an idea they privately shunned. Clearly leadership has decided this is the least destructive alternative. But make no mistake: It will have consequences for them, too.

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