House Republicans flinched before Marjorie Taylor Greene

·5 min read

The Grand Old Party has a grand new problem named Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. House Republicans, facing a divided party in the post-Trump era, confronted a major test Thursday -- and they flinched. The lower chamber voted 230 -- 199, with 11 House Republicans joining 219 Democrats to swiftly strip Greene of her committee assignments in light of her incendiary comments and social media activity.

<p>Alice Stewart</p><div class="cnn--image__credit"><em><small>Credit: Alice Stewart</small></em></div>

Alice Stewart

Credit: Alice Stewart

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stood by the conservative firebrand and conspiracy theorist as she was removed from positions on the House Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee. This had to happen. Serving on a committee is not a right -- it's a privilege. It's a privilege members of Congress can giveth, and taketh away.

I respect Greene's decision to refute some of her past statements on the House floor earlier Thursday; however, that does not change the fact that her embrace of violent rhetoric, conspiracy theories and lies are a "cancer" -- as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it -- that needs to be eradicated.

In 2018 and 2019, Greene repeatedly liked comments on social media calling for the execution of prominent Democrats. In addition to sharing racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic views, she also has a disturbing history of supporting baseless nonsense, including the idea that the 2018 Parkland school shooting was staged and the 2018 California wildfires were started by a space laser controlled by Jewish people. She also questioned whether a plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, supported QAnon, a conspiracy theory that heralds former President Donald Trump as a hero in a fight against a cabal of pedophiles, and pushed Trump's debunked claims of election fraud.

Ahead of the vote on Thursday, one of her GOP colleagues told me her "wild a** conspiracy theories" are a bridge too far and she should be stripped of her committees. While committee removal only requires a simple majority and the Democrat-led House could have taken this action alone, the 11 Republicans did the right thing in a rare show of bipartisanship to go on the record denouncing Greene's rhetoric.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Liz Cheney maintained her position as the third ranking Republican in the lower chamber after the House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in her favor, 145-61. Cheney came under fire after she crossed party lines and voted to impeach Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, saying in a statement that "there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

The criticism from some fellow Republicans was not merely about Cheney's vote of conscience, which I support. I am told by her colleagues the frustration was also about her failure to communicate her intent to do so with the rest of the House Republican leadership.

Many have made the mistake of comparing the way House Republicans have treated the two congresswomen, making the case that Greene, a conspiracy theorist, got a standing ovation after issuing an apology to her colleagues behind closed doors on Wednesday, while Cheney, the one who voted for Trump's impeachment, received scorn and criticism. But there's an important distinction: Cheney is in a position of leadership, which bears a different level of accountability. And ultimately, Cheney held on to her position, while Greene lost her committee assignments.

For the sake of argument, keep in mind that Greene is a freshman congresswoman. We are painfully witnessing her learning curve in an arena not suitable for on-the-job training. She's learning there are boundaries. She's learning there is a difference between outlandish comments as a private citizen and candidate, and rhetoric as a member of Congress.

As McCarthy said in his statement condemning Greene's comments, members should hold themselves to a "higher standard" than how she presented herself as a private citizen.

Whatever Greene did in her life before Congress is between her and voters in North Georgia. Anything she does in Congress, however, is certainly subject to the scrutiny of colleagues.

But the bottom line is that Greene does not work for her colleagues. She works for her constituents. While they knew of her controversial past, they want her to represent them in the future. Voters want Congress to help them put food on the table, address their Covid-19 concerns and educate their children. One cursory glance at Greene's social media suggests her focus lies elsewhere: fundraising, attacking "fake news," and false claims of election fraud.

In late January, she said she raised $1.6 million, and that she has raked in $260,000 in just two days -- according to a tweet on Wednesday that also read, "Let's keep sending the message to the Democrat mob." Unless she's going to donate that money to a charity, it seems rather self-serving to me, and it's certainly a distraction for the rest of the party.

Greene's toxic talk creates a huge headache for the GOP, and it's about time the party hit the reset button. The Republican Party has a history of prioritizing debt and deficit, not deceit and deception. We need to get away from falsehoods and back to our founding principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, peace through strength and religious liberty.

We need to turn the page on the Trump brand of outlandish and embarrassing leadership, and Thursday's vote was a step in the right direction. We need to focus on conservative policies, not a cult of personalities. And we certainly don't need to reward bad apples with plum committee assignments.