Why Giving Marjorie Taylor Greene the Steve King Treatment Might Not Work

King and Greene are two peas in a racist pod, but are from very different places. Photo: Getty Images/Shutterstock

Georgia’s newly minted represenative Marjorie Taylor Greene has rapidly become a political mega-star and mega-villain, and very much the symbol of the radicalized Republican Party that Donald Trump left behind like the trail of a radioactive slug.

The more Greene defends or denies the increasingly deep and wide cesspool of toxic remarks she’s made before and after her successful 2020 run for Congress, the more pressure builds on the Republicans to do something about her. House Democrats are increasingly vocal about it, while the bulk of Republicans inwardly groan and try to change the subject.

As I noted recently, the official sanctions available to deal with someone like Greene are limited and largely unsatisfactory. A “censure” or a “reprimand” is really just a slap on the wrist. And expulsion without something like a criminal conviction could backfire by making its object a martyr, and also requires a two-thirds vote of House members.

There is, however, the penalty that House Republicans administered to another congressional pariah of the racist genus, Iowa’s Steve King, in 2019 after he allowed as how he saw nothing objectionable in the idea of “white supremacy.” King was stripped of his committee assignments, which led pretty quickly to a successful 2020 primary challenge and a ticket to the boneyard for the arch-reactionary.

Why not give the same treatment to Greene? That’s what Steny Hoyer has urged Republicans to do right away or else, as Politico reports:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has delivered an ultimatum to McCarthy: Either Republicans move on their own to strip Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments within 72 hours, or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor….

On a leadership call on Sunday, top Democrats discussed a straightforward motion that would go through the House Rules Committee. That would be separate from a resolution led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), which would also remove the Georgia Republican from any House panel slots.

As masters of the House floor, Democrats might be able to remove Greene from the education and labor committees, respectively, to which she was just appointed. Republicans aren’t so sure that’s possible under the current rules. King was technically not “stripped” of his committee assignments, but was instead not reappointed at the beginning of the 116th Congress.

The bigger difference between King’s situation and Greene’s, however, involves the nature of their districts. When King lost his committee assignments, he lost Iowa’s one seat on the Agriculture Committee, which was a very big deal in that agri-dependent state. In addition, he had already shown himself to be vulnerable to a general election opponent when he very nearly lost to Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018. Greene’s district is one of the most conservative and Republican in the country. Moreover, the 14th is a sprawling collection of Atlanta exurbs, Chattanooga suburbs, mountains and red clay hills. It population is very white, very blue-collar and very conservative evangelical, but is not the sort of area where elected officials are expected to bring home any particular bacon. Greene’s appeal, in any event, is based on precisely the sort of wild-ass extremism that has most Democrats wanting to punish her and many Republicans wishing she’d go away. She’ll espouse the same views whether she’s the most junior member of the minority on the Education and Labor Committee, or on some other committee — or on no committee. And without question, punitive actions will burnish the self-image Greene projects of the fighting populist being persecuted by the Fake News Media and the Radical Left.

That’s not to say House Democrats are wrong in trying to sanction her, or in trying to shame Republicans into disciplining her. Kevin McCarthy needs to be made uncomfortable every single day he enables her conduct, and there are Republicans in her district who are embarrassed by her antics: notably state senator Chuck Hufstetler, who represents Rome, the small city to which Greene abruptly moved in 2020 when she decided to run in the 14th instead of the urban-suburban 6th district. The important parallel between King and Greene is that the former became, and the latter should become, an object lesson in establishing the borderline between merely radical and wildly violent and un-American conduct.

Why Giving Greene the Steve King Treatment Might Not Work