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Nate Jackson / February 4, 2021

A GOP House Divided?

Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene both pose problems for Republicans.

House Republicans just made clear that “we’re not going to be divided and that we’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership.” So declared a triumphant Liz Cheney after she retained her leadership post as Republican Conference chair in a 145-61 vote Wednesday. She might have won that vote, but that doesn’t mean Republicans aren’t divided. The 61 “no” votes and four-hour grievance meeting attest to that. Yet there are some signs that Republicans are trying to mend fences and work together after an underappreciated strong election cycle that put them within a hair’s breadth of House control.

For background, Cheney faced this vote of confidence after she joined a mere nine other Republicans in voting to impeach President Donald Trump. The former president certainly didn’t behave admirably in the two months following the election, but neither was he guilty of “incitement of insurrection,” the ludicrous title of the Democrats’ impeachment farce. Their vote happened just days before he left office in any case, and that leaves serious constitutional questions hanging over his pending post-office Senate trial.

Nevertheless, the day before the vote, Cheney asserted, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Yesterday, she called it “a vote of conscience” for which she cannot apologize. That’s fine, but those 61 Republicans have every right to say her conscience should cost her the third-ranking leadership position given that it puts her ahead of 197 Republicans who were perfectly capable of seeing through the Democrats’ charade and voting against impeachment. As our Douglas Andrews argued, “That makes her by definition an extremist.”

That said, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is no RINO, as some would suddenly categorize her over this single vote. Yet she’ll almost certainly face a primary challenge for her Wyoming seat. Perhaps this vote is just a manifestation of Republicans working through the political impact Donald Trump had on the party.

That brings us to the other blonde Republican woman under fire from her own side: Marjorie Taylor Greene, the newly elected Georgia representative. Greene finds herself in hot water with the Republican Conference because of revelations about some of the truly bizarre things she’s said over the years. (Jewish space lasers starting wildfires?) Suffice it to say, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy put it, “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.”

McCarthy held a private meeting with Greene to give her a warning, no doubt reminding her what happened to Steve King, the Iowa Republican who lost his committee assignments after saying one too many unacceptable things before being defeated in a primary. Ultimately, McCarthy kept Greene where she is, but Democrats have advanced a resolution to strip her of committee assignments and make her the face of the supposedly radicalized GOP.

Update: House Democrats did vote to strip Greene of her assignments.

However, McCarthy argued that punishing members of Congress for things they said before becoming members of Congress means “it will be a hard time for the Democrats to place anybody on committee.”

Never mind before office. Try judging what they say while in office. We’ve previously compared Greene with Ilhan Omar, the unhinged and hateful Democrat from Minnesota who has repeatedly spewed anti-American and anti-Semitic bile while funneling campaign money to family and even marrying her own brother to cheat the immigration system.

That isn’t to excuse Greene’s loony statements, but it is to say she doesn’t hold a candle to Omar.

And then there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s histrionics and false attempted-murder allegations against a sitting U.S. senator. But that’s another story.

Moreover, Greene apologized Wednesday — in the private Republican meeting, anyway — for many of her statements, including advancing the so-called QAnon conspiracy theory. That’s great; now she just needs to mind her Ps and Qs.

The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans tend to hold their wayward members to account. Democrats just keep reelecting them. But the larger story here is the establishment and the populists figuring out just how big the GOP tent really is. We’ll see how that plays out in 2022, when Republicans need just a handful of seats to retake the House.

Update: In a floor speech Thursday, Greene said, “These were words of the past, and these things do not represent me. They do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values. … I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions, questions about them and talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret. 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 anything wrong. Because I’ve lived a very good life that I’m proud and my family’s proud of.”

She added, “I never once said any of the things that I am being accused of today, during my campaign. These were words of the past. These things do not represent me.”

And finally, “Will we allow the media, that is just as guilty as QAnon of presenting truth and lies, to divide us? Will we allow ourselves to be addicted to hate, and hating one another? I hope not, because that’s not the future I want for my children, and it’s not the future I want for any of your children.”

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