For all the talk about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confronting his violence-loving freshman member Marjorie Taylor Greene and giving her a stern talking-to, it’s now obvious that he (and likely a majority of the House GOP Conference) lacks the guts to deal with her decisively. In a Wednesday statement characterized by evasions and whataboutism, McCarthy refused to discipline Greene and will clearly defend her against a Democratic move on Thursday to take away her tentative committee assignments.
McCarthy met with Greene on Tuesday and with other House Republicans periodically but did nothing amid widespread bipartisan demands to give her the same sort of treatment he had meted out in 2019 to Iowa’s Steve King, who lost his committee assignments after expressing sympathy with white supremacists.
In his statement, the GOP House leader bobbed and weaved but seemed to be suggesting he was giving Greene an amnesty for her past outrageous remarks while putting her on notice that she’d better clean up her act:
Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference. I condemn those comments unequivocally. I condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today. This House condemned QAnon last Congress and continues to do so today.
I made this clear to Marjorie when we met. I also made clear that as a member of Congress we have a responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard than how she presented herself as a private citizen. Her past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward.
I’m sure this rebuke has Greene shaking in her boots, particularly since McCarthy also accused Democrats of a partisan witch hunt for seeking to sanction her:
Democrats are choosing to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party.
The “power grab,” to be clear, is far short of the expulsion measure many Democrats actually favor and reflects the recommendation for measured action made by (among others) the editors of the conservative National Review, who said:
Greene’s conspiracy-laden malevolence is poison to the electoral prospects and moral standing of the GOP. There’s no reason that the party needs to give her committee assignments, and she’s unlikely to have much useful to contribute to the House Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee anyway.
After pulling back from any meaningful action against Greene, McCarthy resorted to the infinitely tired tactics of whataboutism and false equivalency:
While Democrats pursue a resolution on Congresswoman Greene, they continue to do nothing about Democrats serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee who have spread anti-Semitic tropes, Democrats on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committee compromised by Chinese spies, or the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee who advocated for violence against public servants.
The first reference is to Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar, who “apologized for her remarks and even voted for a resolution denouncing them,” as Jonathan Chait has pointed out. The second is to Eric Swalwell, who apparently took some campaign donations from a lobbyist who might have been a secret Chinese agent but who was “not accused of any wrongdoing,” according to the Washington Post. And the third is to Maxine Waters, who once said there was nothing wrong with people confronting members of the Trump administration over its family-separation policies for refugees, or even denying them lunch. Compare that with Greene’s calls for the execution of Democratic politicians or her suggestion of a “bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And there’s nothing you can attribute to House Democrats that is remotely like the QAnon conspiracy theory, which Greene has promoted, with its belief that Donald Trump’s political enemies are Satan-worshipping pedophiles who need to be put to death in the wake of a cleansing military coup.
Earlier this week, McCarthy’s Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, made a thinly veiled reference to Greene as a “cancer for the Republican Party.” McCarthy is refusing to officially marginalize her for the simple reason that in the context of today’s House Republicans, she’s not all that marginal. As Chait put it, “QAnon has become too big to fail.”