On Thursday, as the House debated whether or not to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned Democrats that they will regret the precedent they set if they remove a congresswoman from her committees over controversial statements from before her time in Congress. In fact, he compared this move to Senate Democrats’ decision to nuke the filibuster for judicial appointments during the Obama administration.
McCarthy noted that Democrats have cited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who condemned Greene’s controversial statements.
“I would remind them what Leader McConnell said when Democrats voted to nuke the judicial filibuster: ‘You’ll regret this. And you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,'” McCarthy warned.
“If people are held to what they have said prior to even being in this house, if the majority party gets to decide who sits on what other committees, I hope you keep that standard, because we have a long list you can work with in your own,” the Republican leader added.
McCarthy condemned the entire exercise as a “distraction from the real issues” like COVID-19 relief. “This is the least productive Congress since last year. I thought that’d be hard to beat,” he quipped. “There is nothing for workers who have lost their jobs, including thousands of blue-collar jobs that were eliminted just by a stroke of a pen by President Biden, even laying off the union workers who endorsed him.”
McCarthy mentioned numerous Democrats who have kept their prestigious committee assignments even after anti-Semitic statements, inciting supporters to harass public servants, and carrying on romantic relationships with Chinese spies.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — claimed that Jews had “hypnotized” the world and said Americans only care about Israel because of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) “Benjamins. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) serves on the House Intelligence Committee despite his romantic history with a Chinese spy. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, urged leftists to harass members of the Trump administration in public places.
While Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory; questioned whether the September 11, 2001, attacks were an “inside job”; claimed that school shootings might have been faked; and expressed support for killing Democratic politicians before she entered office, McCarthy noted that these Democrats made these horrific moves while in Congress.
McCarthy unequivocally condemned Greene’s previous statements, and Greene herself said she regrets them. In a speech on Thursday, Greene declared that “school shootings are absolutely real.” She added, “I also want to tell you, 9/11 absolutely happened.”
“I decided to run for Congress because I want to help our country,” Greene added. “I never once said, during my entire campaign, ‘QAnon.’ … I never said any of these things since I had been elected to Congress. These were words of the past and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values.”
She transitioned to discuss the gospel, saying “none of us are perfect.”
“And if this Congress is to tolerate members that condone riots that have hurt American people, attacked police officers, occupied federal property, burned businesses in cities, but yet wants to condemn me and crucify me in the public square for words that I said and I regret a few years ago, then I think we are in a real big problem, a very big problem,” Greene warned.
(Part Two) pic.twitter.com/suyiefPXBF
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@RepMTG) February 4, 2021
CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza claimed that Greene does not truly regret her words — she is fundraising off of these attacks, after all. Yet this is the kind of declaration I called for last week. Greene finally did explain her previous comments, and she explicitly disavowed the conspiracy theories she previously supported. While I would like to see some contrition and some explanation for her calls for violence against Democratic politicians, this disavowal is more than Maxine Waters ever gave.
I believe Greene should have faced this kind of backlash, but I also believe that the GOP has addressed the situation fairly and that Democrats are taking advantage of the situation. If the Democrats strip Greene of her committee assignments, it does set a dangerous precedent — and it creates a standard that many Democratic leaders abjectly fail.
If Greene’s past damnable comments — most of which she has explicitly disavowed — disqualify her for service on congressional committees, then what about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) false attempted murder accusation against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)? What about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) accusation that Republicans were “trying to get away with … the murder of George Floyd” when they supported a separate criminal justice reform bill? What of Pelosi’s accusation that Trump and House Republicans are “accessories” to “murder” for questioning the results of the 2020 election?
Democrats are trying to hold Trump “accountable” for “incitement of insurrection” and they are trying to hold Greene “accountable” for previous statements before she entered Congress. Yet if Trump’s claims regarding the 2020 election make him responsible for the violent actions of others, what of Democrats’ inciteful rhetoric?
McCarthy’s warning is apt. If Democrats strip Greene of her committee assignments in this case, they set a precedent that may come back to bite them.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.