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In response to Greene's radicalism, McCarthy decides to do nothing

Mitch McConnell characterized Greene's madness as "a cancer" on the country and the GOP. Kevin McCarthy decided to leave that cancer untreated.
Image: Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2021.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) record of dangerous radicalism was already astonishing, but the revelations from the last couple of weeks have generated an important challenge for Republican leaders.

The Georgia Republican's support for the deranged QAnon conspiracy theory was already well documented, and that alone should've been a disqualifier in a mature political party in a healthy democracy. But then the avalanche came: Greene expressed support for violence and murder targeting U.S. elected officials. She dismissed 9/11 and school massacres as hoaxes. She harassed at least one survivor of a school shooting. She targeted religious minorities. She peddled bizarre nonsense about fire-causing space lasers.

It was against this backdrop that House GOP leaders thought it'd be a good idea to give the unhinged congresswoman two plum committee assignments, putting her on the House Education and Budget committees.

House Democrats said that if Republicans wouldn't expel Greene, and Greene wouldn't resign, the least GOP leaders could do would be to strip the right-wing Georgian of her committee assignments, just as they'd done two years earlier in response to radicalism from Iowa's Steve King.

Last night, Republicans offered their response.

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.

The beleaguered House minority leader issued a 300-word written statement last night, denouncing some of Greene's crackpot ideas, before blaming Democrats for wanting to limit the extremist's power on Capitol Hill. McCarthy added that he offered his Democratic counterparts "a path to lower the temperature and address these concerns" -- by all accounts, he was willing to remove Greene from the Education Committee -- which was a reflection of just how badly confused McCarthy is about the nature of the controversy.

This week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) characterized Greene's madness as "a cancer" on the country and the Republican Party. Two days later, the top GOP leader in the House decided the responsible thing to do would be leave that cancer untreated.

By some accounts, it was the preferred direction of the House Republican conference, much of which rewarded Greene with a standing ovation during a closed-door meeting last night after she expressed some degree of private contrition.

McCarthy soon after insisted he "doesn't even know" what the QAnon conspiracy theory is. There's reason to believe he was lying: the House GOP leader has not only denounced QAnon garbage publicly, he also voted as recently as October for a congressional resolution condemning the deranged nonsense.

The House minority leader's passivity will not, however, be the final word on the subject. As NBC News reported overnight, a resolution to strip Greene of her committee assignments passed the House Rules Committee and will be considered on the House floor today. If a majority of members vote for the measure -- which appears likely -- the right-wing Georgian will lose her committee assignments whether McCarthy likes it or not.

It's not yet clear how many Republicans, if any, will vote for the resolution, though Axios reported that "several GOP lawmakers are frustrated with McCarthy for failing to deal with Greene on his own, and forcing them to cast a difficult vote."

Watch this space.