The action against Greene comes after her racist and anti-Semitic comments and social media posts – most from before her time in Congress – surfaced over the last week. Greene has also closely aligned herself with QAnon until just recently and was one of the most vocal promoters of baseless election fraud claims touted by former President Donald Trump in the lead up to a violent mob attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The Georgia Republican currently serves on the House Education and Budget panels. Democrats have taken particular issue with her sitting on the Education Committee after she said the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were staged. Greene was also filmed harassing David Hogg, a teenage school shooting survivor.
Greene, so far, has refused to publicly apologize or denounce her previous behavior, instead issuing defiant statements declaring she wouldn’t back down and fundraising off the push to punish her. She did express remorse during a tense closed-door GOP meeting Wednesday night – leading to a standing ovation by half the conference – but even Republicans in the room disagreed on whether she gave an actual apology.
Some GOP lawmakers, however, now say they are willing to give her a chance — even as some members still want Greene to denounce her rhetoric publicly.
“I think everybody should hear that,” McCarthy said after Wednesday’s meeting. “I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us.”
The vote comes at critical moment for the Republican Party as it grapples with its identity in a new era where Trump is out of office – and recently out of sight — but still looms large and wields significant power. McCarthy’s efforts to carefully balance the competing factions was on full display during the meeting Wednesday, where he stood by Greene while simultaneously offering a forceful defense of No. 3 Republican Liz Cheney amid attempts to oust her from leadership for voting to impeach Trump.
At least one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, said he plans to vote with Democrats Thursday unless Greene comes out and publicly apologizes and denounces her past actions.
“She stood up and gave a bit of contriteness but then pivoted into ‘they’re coming after you next,’” Kinzinger said on CNN Thursday, describing Greene’s closed door speech the night before.
“I wish this vote on the floor today to remove her from committees was something we didn’t have to do because it would’ve been done by our side. But to see her come out of there [in] a strong position was crazy.”
Since last year, POLITICO has reported on a series of videos and statements by Greene espousing racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views. And CNN and other outlets have also reported that Greene liked social media comments about violence against Pelosi, including “a bullet to the head” of the speaker; and even saying a Jewish space laser was responsible for deadly California wildfires.
McCarthy had tried to avoid a House floor vote, which will put many of his members in the uncomfortable spot of defending Greene – and therefore offering at least tacit support for her behavior — or going against the Georgia Republican, who is closely aligned with Trump.
The GOP leader reached out to Hoyer on Wednesday, offering to move Greene from the Education panel to the Small Business Committee if Democrats agreed to call off the vote. But Hoyer rejected the idea, saying that didn’t go far enough given Greene’s actions.
“She has attacked and made incendiary remarks prior to, but also during her term as a member of Congress with respect to the safety and welfare of the Speaker of the House and others in the House,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters.
House Democrats are outraged over Greene, with several moving to take more severe action including censuring or even expelling her. Democratic leaders have not wanted to go that route yet and see the effort to strip her of committee assignments as appropriate punishment for now.
Typically, the question of yanking a member off of committees is handled internally by each party. McCarthy moved quickly to strip then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee posts in 2019 after he defended white supremacy.
But McCarthy has held off disciplining on Greene, holding multiple meetings with both her and his leadership team this week before ultimately deciding not to act. The California Republican defended Greene during the GOP’s private meeting Wednesday and warned Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent for the future.
“If they come after her, they’ll come after someone else next,” McCarthy said.
Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.