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Greene expresses regret for embracing conspiracy theories but does not address past support for violence against Democratic colleagues
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — On a largely party-line vote, the U.S. House Thursday took the unprecedented step of removing Georgia Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments after GOP leaders refused to do so in the wake of Greene’s past online support for conspiracy theories and violence against Democrats.
Family members of victims of the deadly 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida — which Greene has in the past questioned as a hoax — lobbied members to take action against Greene.
The move means that while Greene will remain a voting member of Congress, she won’t be able to participate in any of the committee work that is a key part of a member’s job.
The vote came after Greene took the floor to express regret about her past embrace of QAnon and conspiracy theories about school shootings and the 9/11 terror attacks, during which she also blamed the news media for mischaracterizing her views and lamented “cancel culture.”
“I think it’s important for all of us to remember that none of us is perfect,” she said, adding that if Democrats “want to condemn me and crucify me in the public square for words that I said and I regret a few years ago, then I think we’re in a real big problem.’
In her remarks, Greene did not address her past expressions of support for violence against Democrats, including liking a Facebook post in 2019 that called for putting “a bullet in the head” of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Those threats were front and center in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s impassioned argument for the resolution, during which he brandished a campaign poster showing Greene carrying a AR-15 rifle next to pictures of three Democratic women known as “The Squad,” over a caption reading “Squad’s Worst Nightmare.”
“I ask my colleagues to look at that image and tell me what message you think it sends,” he said. “These three faces are real people.”
The three members of The Squad are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. In 2019, Greene posted a video arguing that Omar and Tlaib could not serve in Congress because they are Muslim.
Greene — calling herself a “very regular person” and wearing a mask emblazoned with the phrase “Free Speech” — explained that she became interested in the QAnon conspiracy in 2018 due to her frustration about events in Washington, including “Russian collusion,” which she dismissed as a false conspiracy theory.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, 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 anything wrong,” she said.
She also noted that she did not advance QAnon during her campaign for the House last year or since she was elected to represent Georgia’s 14th District, which covers the northwestern corner of the state.
Despite previous expressions of support for conspiracy theories holding that mass school shootings were staged and expressing skepticism about official accounts of the 9/11 attacks, she said she now believes that “school shootings are absolutely real” and that “9/11 absolutely happened.”
However, she also said the news media is “just as guilty as QAnon in presenting truth and lies.”
“You only know me by how Media Matters, CNN, MSNBC and the rest of the mainstream media is portraying me,” she said. “Big media companies can take teeny, tiny pieces of words that I’ve said, that you have said, any of us, and can portray us as someone that we’re not, and that is wrong.”
In her remarks Thursday, Greene did not address one of the more outlandish conspiracy theories that she supported in 2018, which posited that wildfires in California may have been ignited by lasers from outer space by a cabal that included a Jewish-owned bank.
The fuse leading to Thursday’s vote was lit when Republican leaders appointed Greene to the budget and education committees, with the latter appointment triggering particular outrage because of her past comments about school shootings.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has condemned Greene’s earlier comments but declined to strip her of her committee assignments, prompting Democrats to take action, which McCarthy dismissed as a “partisan power grab.”
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Cunningham of South Carolina and Spanberger of Virginia keep vow to oppose Pelosi; North Carolina’s 9th District remains vacant
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven Southern Democratic U.S. House freshmen who ousted GOP incumbents in November supported Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the gavel as speaker of the U.S. House — handing Republicans an issue to use against them in 2020.
Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida all supported Pelosi in the January 3 vote.
Two other freshmen Democrats who had vowed during their campaign that they would not support Pelosi — Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — kept that promise, voting instead for Cheri Bustos of Illinois.
And despite signing a letter in November calling for new leadership in the House, Filemon Vela of Texas switched course to vote for Pelosi.
Meanwhile, as the new Congress convened in Washington with 29 new Southern members, one seat sat empty — the representative from North Carolina’s 9th District, where state elections officials have refused to certify Republican Mark Harris’s narrow win over Democrat Dan McCready amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
In the vote for speaker, just three Southern Democratic members did not support Pelosi — Cunningham and Spanberger, who voted for Bustos, and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who voted present.
Cooper, who has been in Congress since 1983, had been a long-time opponent of Pelosi’s speakership, having voted against her five times previously.
After the November election, a group of 16 Democratic members, including Cooper, Cunningham and Vela, signed a letter calling for “new leadership” in the Democratic caucus.
Vela changed course after Pelosi agreed to support term limits for the House Democratic leadership, which will limit her speakership to no more than four years.
Pelosi needed a majority of the 430 votes cast for speaker. In the end, she got 220 votes, four more than necessary.
Of the seven Southern Democrats who ousted Republicans and voted for Pelosi, McBath, Horn and Luria represent districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016, while Allred and Fletcher represent districts he lost by less than 2 points.
Hillary Clinton carried Murcasel-Powell’s district in South Florida by 16 points and Wexton’s district in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. by 10 points.
Three other Southern Democratic newcomers who won open seats in November also supported Pelosi — Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Donna Shalala of Florida. All three represent districts Clinton carried handily.
Among Southern Republicans, only three did not support their candidate for speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
Walter Jones of North Carolina did not vote. He has been absent from Congress since September because of an undisclosed illness.
Of the 29 new Southern members of the House, 17 are Republicans and 12 are Democrats. Republicans hold 101 Southern seats, compared to 50 for Democrats, with North Carolina’s 9th District vacant.
The 9th District seat is likely to remain vacant until after the state elections board completes its investigation into the allegations of absentee ballot irregularities, which has been delayed until February because of a new law revamping the board.
Harris has filed a lawsuit seeking for force certification of the election.
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Four incoming freshmen have not taken a position on Pelosi’s tenure as Democratic leader
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — After an election season in which Republicans used the specter of Nancy Pelosi’s speakership as a weapon against their Democratic opponents, four Southern Democrats, including two incoming freshman, have signed on to an effort to replace her as Democratic leader.
Two incumbents — Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Filemon Vela of Texas — and one newcomer, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, are among 16 House members who signed a letter calling for “new leadership” in the Democratic caucus, which will take control of the House in January.
“Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-win districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington,” the letter said. “We promised to change the status quo, and we intent to deliver on that promise.”
The anti-Pelosi rebels said they would oppose her as speaker both in the vote in which Democrats will select a speaker candidate on November and on the House floor, where Pelosi will need a majority of 218 votes to defeat the Republicans’ expected candidate, Kevin McCarthy, in January.
Democrats are on track to have 234 seats in the new House, which means Pelosi can lose a maximum of 16 Democratic votes.
In addition to the three Southern Democrats who signed the letter, another incoming freshman, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, has said she will oppose Pelosi.
In an interview with CNN, Spanberger said that while she has “tremendous respect” for Pelosi, “one of the things that I talked about frequently on the campaign trail was the need to have new voices in Congress, the need to turn a new page in the way we engage across the aisle, and really to be able to work on the priorities that were most important to the people in my district.”
Four other incoming members — Colin Allred of Texas, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Lucy McBath of Georgia, and Elaine Luria of Virginia — have not taken a position on Pelosi’s speakership. All four narrowly won their races over Republican incumbents who highlighted their possible support for Pelosi in their campaigns.
The six remaining Southern Democratic freshmen — Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas, Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia — have all said they will support Pelosi.
Escobar and Garcia won open Democratic seats. Fletcher, Shalala, Mucarsel-Powell and Wexton flipped Republican seats.
Pelosi, 78, has represented San Francisco in the House since 1987 and has led House Democrats since 2002. She served as speaker from 2007 until 2011, the first woman to hold the post.
Her long tenure as leader — 16 years and counting — and her usefulness as a bogeyman for Republicans are driving the opposition to her, which is generally not a fight over policy or ideology.
However, the rebellion against Pelosi within the Democratic caucus is not widespread, including among Southern members. Only Cooper and Vela are opposing her; 116 other returning Southern Democratic members are expected to support her.
Cooper’s opposition is not a surprise. The Nashville Democrat, who has opposed Pelosi five times in the past, told The Tennessean that new Democratic members “won their districts by tiny margins and are in danger of losing in 2020 unless we prove to voters that we are working hard to get America back on track.”
Vela, from Brownsville, had supported Pelosi’s bid for Democratic leader after the 2016 election. But he called for her to step down after the party lost a high-profile special election in Georgia in 2017 in which Republicans relentlessly tied the Democratic candidate to her.
No one has so far stepped forward to run against Pelosi for Democratic leader. Given that party members are highly unlikely to vote for McCarthy on the floor, it remains unclear for whom the anti-Pelosi rebels might cast their votes.
One option would be to vote “present” instead of for another candidate, which would not imperil Pelosi because she only has to win a majority of those members actually voting. However, in their letter, her opponents said they were “committed to voting for new leadership both in our Caucus meeting and on the House floor.”
Should Pelosi survive, the lone Southerner in the House Democratic leadership, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, is expected to become the House majority whip, the No. 3 position. He is currently the only candidate for the position.
Should Pelosi be unable to secure a majority for the speakership, the scramble to replace her could upset the entire Democratic hierarchy in the House.
Ellmers ends campaign with disparaging comment about a female GOP official’s weight
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — Running in a redrawn district and facing a tsunami of outside spending aimed squarely at her, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina has lost her bid for a fourth term, becoming the first GOP lawmaker to fall in a primary in 2016.
Ellmers lost the June 7 GOP primary to U.S. Rep. George Holding, who opted to run against Ellmers after a court-ordered redraw of the Tar Heel State’s U.S. House map moved his district to another part of the state.
Her campaign ended on a bizarre note when a television camera captured Ellmers making a disparaging remark about Maggie Sandrock, a former chair of the Harnett County Republican Party, as she made her way into a polling place to vote.
“You’re eating a little too much pork barbecue. Woo,” Ellmers said in an exchange captured by Raleigh TV station WNCN.
Reacting to the comment, Sandrock, a former Ellmers supporter who now backs one of her opponents, said the congresswoman had “become a mean girl on steroids.”
Holding took 53 percent of the vote in the the 2nd District primary. Ellmers managed just 24 percent, edging past Greg Brannon, who jumped into the race after losing a U.S. Senate primary back in March.
The House primary was delayed three months after a federal court panel ordered state lawmakers to redraw the map passed after the 2010 Census. The judges ruled that two districts were improperly gerrymandered using racial considerations.
Ellmers’s district in suburban Raleigh was substantially redrawn in the new map, forcing her to run in unfamiliar territory. Her task became more difficult after Holding decided to give up his 13th District seat, which had been moved west to the Greensboro area, and run against Ellmers instead.
Ellmers, 52, a nurse, was first elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave as a critic of Obamacare, with the support of outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.
But those groups turned on Ellmers with a vengeance this year, spending more than $1 million to paint her as a Washington insider who supported wasteful spending.
In her concession speech, Ellmers said she was “disappointed” that the outside spending derailed her re-election bid, despite a high-profile endorsement from Donald Trump.
“The special interest groups with their deep pocks in Washington, unfortunately, have won today,” she said. “I hold my head up high. I’ve done what is necessary to serve the people of the (district).”
Ellmers also ran afoul of anti-abortion groups when she forced Republican leaders to carve out a rape exception in a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks.
In October 2015, Ellmers publicly denied rumors that she was having an extramarital affair with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which came to light after McCarthy abruptly abandoned a run for House speaker.
Holding will now face Democrat John McNeil, a Raleigh lawyer, in November, in a district with a strong Republican tilt.
Florida Republican calls for decentralizing power, empowering backbenchers
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida has announced he will run for House speaker to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner on a platform of decentralizing the GOP leadership’s control of the House agenda by pushing down “the pyramid of power.”
“What I want to see is a principle-based, member-driven Congress,” Webster said in a September 28 appearance on Fox News where he announced his candidacy. “We don’t have that now. I’d like to have us have it.”
“We can show ourselves as leaders by opening up the process, by allowing lots of debate and lots of amendments and lost of opportunities for members,” he said.
Webster, 66, from Winter Haven in Central Florida, is serving his third term in the House. Prior to his service in Congress, Webster served 28 years in the Florida legislature and was state House speaker from 1996 to 1998.
Webster is running to replace Speaker John Boehner, who announced September 25 that he was stepping down amid conflict within the Republican House conference between Boehner’s allies and conservative backbench critics.
Earlier this year, Webster ran against Boehner in an unsuccessful attempt to bounce him from the speaker’s chair. Afterward, Boehner removed Webster from the powerful House Rules Committee.
Conservative critics of Boehner have complained about attempts to punish members who defied the House GOP leadership.
Webster will face one of those leaders, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, in the race for speaker.