Amid backlash from pro-Trump voters and calls to rebuke two legislators, Republican Party faces choice over its future.
Embattled United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was censured by the House of Representatives on Thursday after she issued her first public apology for offensive social media posts and disavowed QAnon conspiracy theories as false.
“In 2018 when I started finding misinformation, lies, things that were not true in these QAnon posts, I stopped believing it,” Greene said in remarks on the House floor in which she acknowledged that “school shootings are real” and “9/11 absolutely happened”.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret,” Greene said.
At the same time, Greene struck a combative tone, pushing back against accusations by Democrats and reports in US media outlets that she had advocated or “liked” posts suggesting the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic politicians.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 230 to 199 to remove Greene from her education and budget committee assignments after Republican leaders refused to do so. Greene had received a standing ovation from House Republicans in a closed-door meeting on February 3, Democrats complained.
Eleven Republican legislators joined Democrats in voting to expel Greene from two House committees. Democrats rejected Greene’s apology as insufficient and said she had continued to espouse false claims and disinformation circulating on right-wing internet sites.
“She’s now trying to denounce QAnon but yet she said recently that they’re ‘patriots’. Never seen anything other than patriotic sentiment coming out of that source. QAnon is a dangerous, sick cult,” Democrat James McGovern said.
Emotions in the Congress have been frayed since a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, stoked by disinformation, overran the Capitol on January 6.
“I don’t know what the hell happened to the Republican Party. The party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, the party of Reagan is becoming the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the party of violence, violent conspiracy theories,” McGovern said.
Greene’s combative style has won support from voters back home in Georgia and until today she had not back down from her prior commentary. Even as Greene offered her apology, she and other Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy for failing to discipline their own members.
In an interview with conservative talk show host Dinesh D’Souza on February 3, Greene reiterated right-wing conspiracy claims about two Democrats that Republicans have said should be removed from committee assignments.
Greene said Democrat Eric Swalwell, who serves on the Intelligence Committee, had sex with a Chinese spy, and Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant, had married her brother to get him into the US. There’s no evidence the claim about Swalwell is true and Omar has refuted the marital accusation.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said, after meeting privately with Greene, he had offered to remove Greene from the Education committee but was rebuffed by Democratic leaders.
Democrats were applying a double-standard by holding Greene to account for her statements while refusing to remove Omar from committees following controversial remarks she made about Israel and the September 11 attacks in 2019 and keeping Swalwell on Intelligence, McCarthy said .
The Republican leader issued a veiled threat that his party would use the same procedure against Democrats if majority control switches in the future.
“You’ll regret this and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” McCarthy said.
“We have a long list,” he said.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 3, 2021
Former President Trump faces an impeachment trial in the US Senate beginning next week for his alleged role in inciting the attack on the Capitol which Democrats have called an insurrection.
It is rare for members of Congress to be removed from committees. The House action against Greene is the first time a majority party has forced the removal of a minority party member from their committee assignments.
Previously, Republicans removed former Representative Steve King from his committee roles in 2019 because he espoused white supremacist views. Former Democratic Representative William Jefferson was kicked off the House Ways and Means Committee by Democrats in 2007 after he was charged with corruption.