The argument was that she was saying all this crazy, false, ridiculous, violent stuff before she was elected to Congress, so what right does anyone have to deprive her constituents in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District of their duly elected representative? They elected her despite the crazy. My thought was that they elected her because of the crazy. It’s a sign of the times. “Interesting” times, as the curse goes.
After the Republican caucus decided not only to take no action in regard to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the best thing to happen to the Democrats since Trump, but for a not insignificant portion to give a standing O to this rep whose view well-known lefty Mitch McConnell called “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” a “cancer” on the Republican party, the full House voted to strip her of committee assignments.
The vote effectively stripped Ms. Greene of her influence in Congress by banishing her from committees critical to advancing legislation and conducting oversight. Party leaders traditionally control the membership of the panels. While Democrats and Republicans have occasionally moved to punish their own members by stripping them of assignments, the majority has never in modern times moved to do so to a lawmaker in the other party.
Was it her views that QAnon was right, that school shootings were staged, that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be murdered, or was it that she was given the opportunity to demonstrate that wasn’t completely nuts and was just putting on a performance to win the support of the crazies and get elected, but refused to do so, to come clean, to apologize for pretending to be batshit crazy?
But wearing a mask emblazoned with the phrase “Free Speech,” Ms. Greene did not apologize over the course of her roughly eight-minute speech. Instead, she portrayed her comments as “words of the past” that “do not represent me,” and she warned that if lawmakers wanted to “crucify” her, it would create a “big problem.”
She didn’t exactly take ownership of reality.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true,” she said, “and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret.”
There is no test to be seated as a member of Congress beyond the one held on election day. You aren’t required to know anything about law, the Constitution, economics or governance. There is no IQ test to see how smart you are or Rorschach test of sanity. The expectation is that the voters will make that choice, and, indeed, they do. Sometimes, they choose poorly.
Comparisons are drawn with the last member of Congress to be excised from the flock, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who failed to see any problem with white supremacy. The Republicans decided that they didn’t want him in their club. But when pushed to decide what to do about Greene, they applauded, knowing that it would force the issue to the floor.
Eleven Republicans voted to banish Greene from committees. It’s good that they did so. It’s bad that it was only eleven. It’s worse that it wasn’t done within their caucus. It’s worse still that the caucus stood up and applauded for a person who was elected on a platform of delusions.
The Democrats are not without their soft spots. They have the Squad, a group of representatives with radical views, racist but in what progressives deem acceptable ways, promoting childish and often ignorant solutions based on their grievous lack of understanding of law, economics and people. They are occasionally foul-mouthed, disingenuous, dumb and whiny, but within the Overton Window of the moment’s politics.
So why, Republicans ask, should Congress tolerate someone like Ilhan Omar but not Greene? By what right do the Democrats get to banish a Republican from influence?
“I truly believe that the majority claiming a new right to be able to exercise a veto over minority committee assignments will ultimately be dangerous for this institution,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the House Rules Committee. “A change in norms away from an institution built on mutual consent and toward an institution where the majority holds a veto power over everything, including committee assignments, is ultimately an institution that cannot function.”
It’s a fair question, and one that raised the potential that the party in the majority can effectively take out a rep from the minority party. Today, Greene is ousted. Should the majority switch in two years, why wouldn’t the Republicans pay the Dems back with the same?
In an effort to warn Democrats about the move, House Republicans introduced their own proposal to remove Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, from the Foreign Affairs Committee, citing comments she made, including that Israel had “hypnotized the world” from ignoring their “evil doings.” Ms. Omar has publicly apologized for those comments, which drew charges of anti-Semitism.
“If this is the new standard, I look forward to continuing out the standard,” Mr. McCarthy said, adding that Republicans had a “long list” of Democrats they would want to remove from their committees.
Was this, as Greene’s reluctantly-worn mask contended, a matter of silencing free speech? Was this the deprivation of her constituents’ choice of representative in Congress? Was there any principled distinction between Marjorie Taylor Greene and, say, Ilhan Omar, or did the Democrats just start the next nuclear war with the Republicans in the House?
There is a principled difference here. Greene’s views were not merely disagreeable to many. Greene denied objective fact. Greene supported threats of violence against her “colleagues.” Greene believed as true things that were unquestionably false. Greene is, for lack of a more official diagnosis, nuts.
Greene’s constituents aren’t denied their congressional representative. She’s still a member of the House, entitled to vote in the big room like anybody else. Committee assignments are never guaranteed, so there was no right to expect her to be seated on any particular committee. And she is free to say whatever she pleases, and no doubt the media will be more than happy to publish her utterances, the angrier and crazier the better. But entrusting the public weal to someone who has a tenuous connection to reality is different than someone holding dumb and offensive political views.
This isn’t to say that the line is so clear that Ilhan Omar, inter alia, hasn’t crossed it, but that wherever that fuzzy line in the sand may be, Marjorie Taylor Greene is far enough on the other side of sanity that she could not be entrusted with public power. That eleven Republicans, not to mention that well-known lefty McConnell, agree is good. That the Republicans didn’t have the guts or integrity to clean up their own house before letting it get to a floor vote was a shame.