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House Republicans weigh stripping Greene from committee assignments as GOP senators repudiate her views

Posted February 2, 2021 4:47 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2021 10:52 p.m. EST

Republican senators distance themselves from Marjorie Taylor Greene as she meets with McCarthy

— The fate of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's future is now in the hands of a group of House Republicans who are deliberating whether to punish the Georgia congresswoman for extreme comments she made before winning her seat, as a growing number of Senate Republicans say she shouldn't be welcome in the party.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met for several hours Tuesday night with Greene at the Capitol. The California Republican has been silent amid the controversy but has been under growing pressure to act, summoning the powerful Steering Committee for a late-night meeting amid pressure to remove the Georgia Republican from her committee assignments.

The GOP steering panel can remove Republican House members from their committee posts, but two officials with direct knowledge of the meeting told CNN that the committee did not make a decision as of Tuesday night.

The officials said the Steering Committee will meet again Wednesday to see if they can come to a decision. Greene did not meet with the Steering panel.

In relaying how the meeting with Greene went, the officials said that McCarthy gave no indication that Greene showed any remorse or contrition for her comments. While there's a belief among GOP members that she should be off her two committees, there's a concern about punishing members for things they did before winning their elections.

Asked if a decision has been made among Republican leadership about what to do about Greene, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told CNN, "No, we're going to be working through some things."

From comments questioning whether the Parkland school shooting was a "false flag" to her doubts that a plane really hit a Pentagon on September 11, 2001, to CNN's reporting last week on her indicated support for executing prominent Democrats before running for Congress, many Republican senators are saying enough is enough.

Republicans are at a crossroad in the House with Greene as Democrats threaten to act, and GOP members of Congress "are going to have to decide who they want to be," a top GOP senator said on Tuesday.

"Do they want to be the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility, free markets, peace through strength and pro-life or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon," Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota and a member of GOP leadership said. "I think that is the decision they've got to face. It's a big distraction for them right now and not in a good way."

Greene is meeting with McCarthy, but it's not clear if he will take steps to remove her from her committees or merely have a discussion with her. In the meantime, Democrats have pledged to move a resolution that would strip Greene of her committees if McCarthy does not act. The resolution will go before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. It is unclear when it would come to the floor in the absence of action by McCarthy.

GOP senators piled on Greene on Tuesday after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a rare and strong rebuke against the controversial Georgia lawmaker, saying Monday that "looney lies and conspiracy theories" are a "cancer" to the GOP. At the same time -- House Democrats have called for Greene to be stripped of her committee assignments.

"I think our party has to make it very clear that she does not represent us in any way," said Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. "Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks."

Another Republican senator went as far to say Tuesday that he'd have a "hard time" supporting Greene staying on the House Education and Labor Committee after she sided with the notion that the 2018 Parkland massacre was a "false flag" operation.

"Personally I'd have a hard time supporting, for example, her positions on the school shootings being staged and being on the Education Committee," North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer told CNN. "Real authority has moral authority."

"It's obviously concerning," added Republican Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota.

Greene responded to some of the criticism on Tuesday afternoon on Twitter.

"Too bad a few Republican Senators are obsessing over me, instead of preparing to defend President Trump from the rabid radical left," she wrote. "Focus on ending the witch hunt. Do your job!"

Florida's two Republican senators blasted Greene for agreeing on social media with a conspiracy theory that the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 that killed 17 people was fake, or staged.

Anyone who argues the shooting was a false flag is "either deranged or a sadist," Sen. Marco Rubio said.

"Those were real families," he added. "Those were real children that died."

Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott called Greene's Parkland response "completely wrong and very disappointing."

"I was there right after the shooting. I met with the families and went to the funerals. ... I still stay close to those families," Scott said.

Several GOP senators raised serious concerns about the kinds of conspiracy theories Greene peddled as dangerous for the future of the GOP and the country.

"I can tell you about that general conspiracy theory stuff, over the top," Rubio said. "Some of those people, I don't know if they really believe it or just saying it to get noticed. Others might actually believe it and if they believe it or, either way, it's not good for the party. But it's also not good for the country."

How House Republican leaders end up deciding to deal with Greene will also "have an impact" on how people see the Republican party as a whole, Cramer said.

"I don't think very many Republicans at all would adhere to her philosophy, but the tent can only be so big. ... There has to be ... some sort of guardrails. I'm not in the House, I'm not a part of that leadership, but how they deal with her will have an impact on how people see the party, for sure," Cramer said when asked about ramifications for the party if the House GOP doesn't act.

Still some senators declined to weigh in on Greene. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican in leadership who is up for reelection in Missouri in 2022, said that he would let the House decide how to handle Greene.

GOP Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley argued he doesn't "know enough about her" to comment.

"I don't know enough about her," Grassley told CNN. "There's 435 members in the House. I have a hard time keeping track of what 100 senators are doing. So, you'll have to ask somebody that's followed it better than I have."

When CNN began to read off a comment of Greene's, he cut in saying, "I don't want to comment on your interpretation of her comments. I want to hear what she said."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who remains a close ally of former President Donald Trump, would not condemn Greene on Tuesday, arguing before he can judge, he wants to "know what the facts are."

Graham suggested, without any evidence of the contrary, that he wants to make sure the postings on social media of Greene's, that are under scrutiny, are accurate and haven't been "manipulated."

When a reporter followed up that several of the congresswoman's comments are on video, Graham replied: "She'll have to tell me is it accurate," adding that he hasn't seen the video.

The South Carolina Republican also said he'd like to hear from her directly on "what's accurate, what's not. What position do you have today? And if your position is different today, why?"

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

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