Pa. Republicans stand by QAnon congresswoman as House votes to strip committee assignments

By: - February 4, 2021 7:41 pm

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga. (Getty Images/The Georgia Recorder)

WASHINGTON — Eight out of nine of Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. House members voted against removing Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments on Thursday night.

According to an official House roll call, U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser, R-9th District; Scott Perry, R-10th District;  Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District; Fred Keller, R-12th District; John Joyce, R-13th District; Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District; Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District, and Mike Kelly, R-16th District, voted against the motion brought by the chamber’s majority Democrats, who cited a series of violent, anti-Semitic comments and social media posts Green made before being elected to Congress in November.

The eight lawmakers also variously objected to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes and joined in litigation challenging their state’s election results.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, was one of 11 Republicans who joined Democrats in support. The 230-199 vote came hours after the Georgia Republican walked back some of her most incendiary comments, saying she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”

Greene’s removal from two committees was a rare rebuke that followed a growing outcry among Democrats. The action was most recently taken in 2019, when GOP leaders removed then-Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, after a news interview in which he questioned why white nationalism was considered offensive and racist. King was defeated in the 2020 primary.

“The member in question has advocated for insurrection and violence against elected officials and children, has challenged the safety of members and our Capitol police, and has promoted fringe conspiracy theories,” U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said during a floor speech.

Dean’s fellow Pennsylvanian on the Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, also a House impeachment manager, said she found it “sickening that the GOP continues to stand by [Greene] and the hateful and dangerous rhetoric she spreads.”

In a 10-minute speech on the House floor Thursday afternoon, Greene offered an explanation for the conspiracy theories and misinformation in her social media posts.

She did not apologize, and the House continued toward the vote on removing Greene from the Education and Labor panel, and the Budget Committee.

Greene, who represents the 14th Congressional District in northwest Georgia, said that she sought out information on the Internet after losing trust in the government and the media, but later stopped believing the conspiracy theories circulated by fringe groups such as QAnon.

“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them,” Greene said. “And that is absolutely what I regret, because if it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments that I liked in 2018, I wouldn’t be standing here today and you couldn’t point a finger and accuse me of doing anything wrong, because I’ve lived a very good life that I’m proud of.”

Greene endorsed a range of conspiracy theories in social media, including that several deadly mass school shootings were staged, and she liked a post that called for putting a bullet in the head of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
She also questioned the veracity of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In her floor remarks Thursday, Greene recanted some of her rhetoric, saying “school shootings are absolutely real,” and that the Sept. 11, 2001  attacks “absolutely happened.” She said that in late 2018, she began to identify “misinformation” in QAnon posts, and stopped believing what she had been reading.

Greene blamed the media for the controversy around her posts, accusing reporters of using “teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said” to misrepresent her views.

Some of her social media rhetoric, largely from 2018 and 2019, was publicly documented before her election. But after House Republican leaders tapped her for the Education and Labor Committee, Democrats expressed outrage at that assignment, citing her comments about school shootings.

The National Education Association, which represents public school teachers and support staff, also sent a letter to legislators in support of removing Greene from the education panel.

“If this is not the bottom, I don’t know what the hell is,” U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday, describing Greene’s past comments as violating the chamber’s standards of conduct.
During Thursday’s House debate, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who sponsored the resolution, said Greene’s rhetoric is the type of conduct “that fuels domestic terrorism.”

After Greene’s speech, McGovern, D-Mass., responded that he was “still deeply, deeply troubled” by her comments and posts, noting that she did not denounce, or apologize for, liking the comment about attacking Pelosi, or for anti-Semitic, Islamophobic comments. He also said some of her posts were made in 2019, after she said she stopped believing in QAnon theories.

“The gentlewoman’s campaign has profited off of these hurtful remarks and these dangerous statements, so I just point that out,” McGovern added.

Big campaign donors have stuck by Greene throughout the controversy and she has encouraged campaign fundraising in her tweets.

House Republicans have largely declined to defend Greene’s comments, but caucus leaders also have declined to undo her committee assignments. GOP legislators also questioned the precedent of punishing lawmakers for comments made before they were elected.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized Democrats as engaging in a “dangerous new standard” that he said would “deepen divisions” in Congress.

McCarthy also accused the majority party of ignoring “infractions” by Democrats. Without naming her, he cited U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar ‘s comments critical of Israel and U.S. supporters of Israel.

Omar, D-Minn., later apologized for those remarks, which were brought up again by Republicans who attempted to retaliate this week with an unsuccessful push to remove Omar from committees.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura Olson covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.