For all of GOP representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s protestations (repeated Friday in a defiant statement) that she’s a victim of “cancel culture” and the “radical, left-wing mob” and the “Fake News media,” the controversy surrounding the freshman congresswoman is entirely of her own making. Before (but not long before) she ran for Congress in 2020 — after switching districts to find somewhere her heavy bankroll could gain her instant viability — Greene unburdened herself at extraordinary length on social media, particularly Facebook, on various fringe topics. At first, observers mostly noticed her utterances explaining and embracing the QAnon conspiracy theory. Additional digging has since uncovered statements that make mere stipulation that her and Trump’s enemies are Satan-worshiping pedophiles seem tame. They include, per Intelligencer’s Jonathan Chait:
• Muslims don’t belong in government.
• 9/11 was an inside job.
• “Zionist supremacists” are secretly masterminding Muslim immigration to Europe in a scheme to outbreed white people.
• Leading Democratic officials should be executed.
The most recent Greene view to be unearthed comes via Eric Hananoki. Just over two years ago, Greene suggested in a Facebook post that wildfires in California were not natural. Forests don’t just catch fire, you know. Rather, the blazes had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project.
The now-congresswoman from the 14th district of Georgia has continued to burnish her reputation for insanely irresponsible extremism, most recently by becoming the wildest of wild supporters of Trump’s election-coup scheme and his underlying (and lying) claims the 2020 election was stolen.
Lest she succeed in smiting her colleagues and her many enemies, it’s appropriate to wonder: What can be done about Greene? Is there a congressional equivalent to impeachment and removal from office?
There is, sort of.
Expulsion from Congress
Either chamber of Congress can expel members for “disorderly behavior,” according to the Constitution. House rules and precedents make this sort of the supreme form of discipline, as a Congressional Research Service report explains:
When the most severe sanction of expulsion has been employed in the House, the underlying conduct deemed to have merited removal from office has historically involved either disloyalty to the United States, or the violation of a criminal law involving the abuse of one’s official position, such as bribery. The House of Representatives has actually expelled only five Members in its history, but a number of Members, facing likely congressional discipline for misconduct, have resigned from Congress or have been defeated in an election prior to any formal House action.
You could certainly make an argument that just as the House impeached Trump for “incitement to insurrection” on grounds that his encouragement of the Capitol Hill riot represented a violation of his oath of office and a betrayal of the Republic, Greene could be expelled on parallel grounds. It’s a very high threshold (three of the expelled House members supported the Confederacy, while two others — most recently James Traficant — were convicted of taking bribes), but then again, it’s unclear if Congress has ever seen anyone like Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Expulsion, however, requires a two-thirds vote of House members (Senate concurrence is not required). So in effect, any reckoning with Greene will require that the Republican Party and the House Republican Caucus decide they’ve had enough of her. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has indicated he has privately told her he disagreed with her introduction of an article of impeachment aimed at Joe Biden. But other than a firm talking-to, it’s unclear he will be willing to do much to punish a member of Congress whom Trump called a “future Republican star,” and that such regular Republicans as former senator Kelly Loeffler treated with praise and respect in pursuing and securing their endorsement. For that matter, McCarthy himself had no problem with Greene being given the opportunity to make fiery remarks during both the electoral vote count and impeachment debates.
Short of expulsion, the House can “censure” or “reprimand” members, but both actions are essentially slaps on the wrist intended to convince constituents the officially disgraced politician should be defeated at the earliest occasion. Could these or more informal steps get the citizens of Georgia’s 14th district to send Greene home?
That’s hard to say. The 14th is an extremely dark-red district, which means the GOP feels no particularly general election pressure to nominate less outlandish congressional candidates. House and Georgia Republicans took hostile notice of Greene when she finished first in the 2020 Republican primary in the 14th, with some endorsing her runoff opponent, John Cowan — whom she beat handily.
It’s also possible all the negative notoriety she’s now getting will just strengthen her politically. She certainly seems to think so; in her latest statement she treats her alleged persecution as a fundraising opportunity. Indeed, even in the unlikely event Greene were expelled, the Georgia’s 14th district might send her right back, though then the House would have the option of “excluding” her (basically refusing to seat her).
Even a criminal conviction wouldn’t affect Greene’s status as a House member, although on occasion convicted pols resign their seats as part of a plea deal.
For the time being, Washington will have to put up with this abrasive and dangerous figure — at least until such time as her party tosses her into the fever swamps where her biggest fans dwell.