The US House of Representatives voted on Thursday to strip Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committee seats for embracing conspiracy theories and violence against Democrats, dividing her own party as it tries to move past Donald Trump’s presidency.
With the 230-199 vote, the House will remove Ms Greene from the committees responsible for education and the budget.
Democratic leaders said Ms Greene’s suggestions of violence and approval of social media threats against elected Democrats had crossed a line.
“Tell me what message you think that sends,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asked before the vote, referring to a doctored image Ms Greene posted on Facebook of herself holding a rifle with photos of progressive politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.
Although few Republicans defended Ms Greene’s words, some who voted against the resolution said it sets a bad precedent for the majority to interfere with the opposing party’s committee assignments.
Ms Greene, whom Mr Trump had declared “a future Republican star”, spoke on the House floor on Thursday to plead her case, saying she has disavowed many of her previous bizarre beliefs, including raising questions about mass school shootings and the September 11 terrorist attack on the US. But she did not directly apologise and Democrats were unconvinced.
House rules chair Jim McGovern said he did not hear any actual apologies for “past comments and posts”. CNN reported that in one 2019 post, Ms Greene liked a Facebook comment that said “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Anyone who suggests putting a bullet in the head of a member shouldn’t serve on any committee, period,” Mr McGovern said. He said “a line had to be drawn”, and he was surprised that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had not taken unilateral action to remove Ms Greene from the committees.
Before the vote, Mr McCarthy told Democrats to “stop trying to invent dangerous and divisive ways to abuse the power of a majority”.
“Let me be very clear. Representative Greene’s past comments and posts as a private citizen do not represent the values of my party,“ Mr McCarthy said. “As a Republican, as a conservative, as an American, I condemn those views unequivocally.”
But Mr McCarthy took issue with what he called “a new standard” for the majority party to remove a minority member from committees. “You’ll regret this and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” he told the chamber’s Democrats.
Adam Kinzinger, a representative from Illinois who has become an outspoken Trump critic, especially regarding his claims about the November election, was among the Republicans who voted with Democrats to strip Ms Greene of her committee posts. When asked if he found her floor speech convincing or credible, he said: “No, not necessarily.”
Another Republican, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, tweeted that Ms Greene “has espoused and amplified views that are not just objectionable, but insane”. But she voted against the resolution and said she would not “set a new precedent where the majority party dictates to the minority”.
Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the rules committee, couched his opposition to the resolution in the details of House procedure and precedent, pointing out that the grievances against Ms Greene were not first referred to the ethics panel.
Mr Cole also said while he found some of Ms Greene’s comments offensive, he opposed the Democratic measure because the House majority party has not traditionally exercised “a veto” of the minority’s assignments to committees. He said that doing this now to Ms Greene would unleash a pattern of “score settling”, with minority members singled out for committee removal every time the majority flips.
But Ms Pelosi said that she would have kicked a Democrat off committees for doing the things Ms Greene had done.
“If anybody starts threatening the lives of members of Congress on the Democratic side, we’d be the first to eliminate them from committees. They had the opportunity to do so,” Ms Pelosi said of Mr McCarthy and other Republican leaders.
In 2019, Republican leaders removed former representative Steve King of Iowa from the agriculture and judiciary ommittees after he publicly questioned when the phrase "white supremacist" became offensive in a New York Times article. He later lost a Republican primary.
Senate Republicans were harsh in their criticism of Ms Greene’s past positions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “loony lies and conspiracy theories” are a cancer for the party and the country, although he did not mention Ms Greene by name.
Mr McCarthy said on Wednesday that he had spoken privately to Ms Greene and took her at her word that she understands the consequences of her actions now that she is an elected member of Congress.