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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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11 other Southern Republicans missed vote on measure that passed House Wednesday
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Seventeen Southern Republicans in the U.S. House joined with all of the region’s Democrats to support a resolution calling for removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol, along with a statue of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision.
Eleven other Southern Republicans did not vote on the measure when it came to the floor Wednesday.
Among those supporting the measure were 15 Southern Republicans who represent former Confederate states, including:
- Florida: Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Daniel Webster and Mario Diaz-Balart.
- Texas: Michael Burgess, Dan Crenshaw, Will Hurd, Mike McCaul, Pete Olson, and Van Taylor.
- North Carolina: Virginia Foxx, Greg Murphy, and Mark Walker.
- Arkansas: French Hill
- Louisiana: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise
Among the Republicans members who did not cast a vote were Ralph Abraham of Louisiana; Bradley Bryne and Martha Roby of Alabama; George Holding and Richard Hudson of North Carolina; Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Barry Loudermilk of Georgia; Francis Rooney of Florida; Denver Riggleman of Virginia; William Timmons of South Carolina; and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma.
Hurd, Olson, Walker, Abraham, Byrne, Roby, Holding and Rooney are all retiring in November; Riggleman was defeated for re-election. The rest are all seeking re-election.
The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 305 to 113, instructs the Capitol architect to remove statues of “individuals who voluntarily served Confederate States of America” and to replace the statute of Taney with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
All of the votes against the measure were cast by Republicans, who opposed the resolution by a vote of 113 to 72.
Taney authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857, which declared African Americans were not citizens even if they had been freed from slavery.
The House bill now goes to the Senate, where it is unclear if the Republican leadership will bring it to the floor. President Donald Trump has also not taken a position on the measure, although he had come out against renaming Southern military bases that were named for Confederates.
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With Georgia’s 7th District remaining to be called, Democrats have netted 10 seats in the South
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
(CFP) — The South’s last uncalled U.S. House race, in Georgia’s 7th District, is headed for a recount with the Republican incumbent, Rob Woodall, holding a slender 419-vote lead over his Democratic challenger, Carolyn Bourdeaux.
With that race in the balance, Democrats’ overall gain in the South stands at 10, just a third of the total number of seats that they had targeted heading into the November 6 vote. All of those seats were in urban and suburban areas where the Democratic vote surged.
Bourdeaux said Friday that she will ask for a recount. Under state law, a losing candidate can seek a recount if the winning margin is less than 1 percent; Woodall’s lead is 0.14 percent.
State election officials have not announced a timetable for the recount. But Georgia uses electronic voting machines without paper ballots, so recounts tend to be finished quickly.
The 7th District is located in Atlanta’s northwest suburbs, in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.
Across the South, Democrats’ best results came in Virginia, where they ousted Republican incumbents in the 2nd, 7th and 10th Districts, which are located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Richmond and Hampton Roads.
However, Democrats went 0-for-4 in targeted seats in North Carolina, 2-for-9 in Florida and 2-for-8 in Texas. They also fell short in targeted races in the upper South states of Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, where Republicans continue to hold 12 out of 13 House seats.
Democrats did win five of the six GOP-held Southern seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016; the lone exception was in Texas’s 23rd District, in West Texas, where Republican Will Hurd won a narrow victory. Democrat Lucy McBath also ousted Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District, where Donald Trump won by just 1.5 points in 2016.
Four Republican House members, with a combined 48 years of service, went down in the Clinton districts, including Pete Sessions and John Culberson in Texas, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, and Carlos Curbelo in Florida. Republicans also lost in Florida’s 27th District, which U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had held for 30 years before deciding to retire.
Democrats kept all of the 40 seats they held going into the election. With the 10 Democratic gains, Southern Republicans will hold 102 seats to 50 for Democrats when Congress reconvenes in January.
In the last Congress, just 13 white Democrats who were not Latino or Asian represented Southern districts. That number will go up to 20 in January, as seven white Democrats displaced Republicans. Two of the flipped seats were won by African-American candidates and one by a Latina.
Hurd, who represents a majority Latino district, will be the only African-American Republican in the next House. Three Southern Republicans are Latino — Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Bill Flores of Texas, and Alex Mooney of West Virginia, whose mother is Cuban.
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Democrats will need to flip 11 Southern seats or make make up the difference elsewhere
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
(CFP) — With President Trump’s approval ratings at historically low levels, Democrats have high hopes of taking back the U.S. House in 2018. But those hopes are tempered by a giant geographic obstacle standing in their way — namely, the South.
To reclaim the House, Democrats need to flip 24 seats, shifting about 10 percent of the seats that Republicans now hold. And nearly half of the GOP caucus — 114 seats — is from the South, where Republican House members outnumber Democrats by 3-to-1.
So a 10 percent shift in the South would require winning 11 seats, in a region where Democrats won just two seats in 2016 (both in Florida and neither yet safe.) If Democrats fall short of that total, they will need to shift an even higher percentage of seats throughout the rest of the country — as much as 19 percent if they come up empty in the South.
And as Democrats plot and plan to add to their meager total of 40 Southern House seats, two recent special elections for open seats offer decidedly mixed omens on their chances for overturning the GOP’s hegemony.
In South Carolina’s 5th District, the swing away from Trump’s 2016 numbers in the special election was nearly 20 percent — not enough for Democrat Archie Parnell to win but a much bigger scare than Republicans had expected. Indeed, if that 20-point swing could be replicated across the South in 2018, 42 GOP-held seats could potentially be in play, more than Democrats would need to return Nancy Pelosi to the speaker’s chair.
But the results in the other race, in Georgia’s 6th District, pour substantial caution on such irrational exuberance. Republican Karen Handel kept the seat by running slightly ahead of Trump, in a race where Democrats spent a whopping $30 million and still came up short.
And this district in the northern Atlanta suburbs is exactly the kind of place where Democrats will need to compete to claw away at Republican dominance in the South next year — increasingly diverse, maturing suburbs whose upscale, educated voters, though conservative by inclination, are somewhat wary of Trump’s stewardship of the GOP brand.
If Democrats couldn’t win this race for an open seat in a low-turnout special election with a highly energized base and a president with historically low approval ratings, flipping these seats in 2018 will be a tall order indeed, particularly given Trump’s solid base of support in the South.
So where can Democrats start? Their first targets will be three majority Latino districts in metro Miami, all of which have large numbers of Cuban-American voters. Trump lost two of these districts and only narrowly won the third.
Veteran GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring, and Republicans will be hard pressed to keep her seat in a district Trump lost by 20 points. But in the other two districts, Democrats will have to unseat incumbents Carlos Curbelo, who has gone out of this way to distance himself from Trump, and Mario Diaz-Balart, who has been winning congressional elections with relative ease since 2002.
Democrats are also likely to target four other Southern districts where Hillary Clinton defeated Trump last year, which include three seats in Texas and one in Virginia. The GOP, however, has held three of these districts, in varying configurations, for decades.
The Virginia seat, in the Washington D.C. suburbs, is held by Barbara Comstock, who first won it in 2014 and was narrowly re-elected in 2016. Even at this early date, she has already drawn six Democratic challengers in a district that, like the rest of Virginia, has become more hospitable to Democrats over the last decade.
In Texas, the climb for Democrats will be steeper. Clinton won the 32nd District in suburban Dallas, but that seat is held by Pete Sessions, a GOP titan who won by 52 points in 2016. She also won the 7th District in suburban Houston, where John Culberson ran well ahead of Trump to win by 12 points.
While Democrats appear eager to try to unseat both (Culberson already has seven challengers and Sessions nine), these districts have long Republican pedigrees reminiscent of Georgia’s 6th District, which was once represented by Newt Gingrich. Former President George H.W. Bush began his political career in the 7th District in 1967; former President George W. Bush’s Dallas home is in the 32nd.
Democrats may have more luck in Texas’s 23rd District, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio across rural West Texas. This district is part of an ongoing legal fight over the state’s 2013 redistricting map, and a panel of federal judges is considering changes that could make it more difficult for Republican Will Hurd to hang on for a third term.
After those Clinton-won districts, the next set of seats Democrats might logically target are those where Trump’s winning margin was less than 10 points and where it would take less than a 10-point swing from the 2016 congressional results to put the seat in Democratic hands. But that list contains a scant eight seats — four in Texas, two in North Carolina and one each in Florida and Virginia. None of them are open at this point.
After that, the pickings get even slimmer — places like Arkansas’s 2nd District, where a Democrat can carry Little Rock only to get swamped by the Republican vote in the suburbs, and Florida’s 3rd District, where liberal-leaning Gainesville is subsumed in a sea of more traditional, conservative Southern voters. To be competitive in these districts, Democrats would have to commit to putting resources into races where chances of victory would appear, at the moment, to be rather remote.
So if Democrats can’t move the playing field into these second and third tiers, they have a reasonable shot at just seven Republican-held Southern seats, five of which have been in GOP hands for decades and all but one of which is likely to have an incumbent. And any anti-Trump tide that helps them in other parts of the country will likely not crest as high in the South.
With a lot of angry voters and a lot of luck, Democrats may indeed swing enough seats in 2018 to win control of the House. But as Republicans try to stop them, their ace in the hole is their dominance across the South, which should give them plenty of reason for confidence.
But 5 GOP lawmakers in other potential swing districts help pass new health care law
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Five Republican members of the U.S. House defied party leaders and President Donald Trump to oppose a bill to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new blueprint for U.S. health care, but five other GOP lawmakers holding potentially vulnerable seats took a different tack and voted to go along with the American Health Care Act.
Two of the Southern GOP no votes on May 4 came from Will Hurd of Texas and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, who both represent districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. A third lawmaker from a district Clinton carried, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, also voted no but is retiring in 2018.
Hurd, whose district stretches across a wide swath of West Texas, issued a statement after the vote saying the plan pushed by GOP leaders “does not address the concerns of many of my constituents, including adequate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers.”
Comstock, whose district is anchored in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, said in a statement that her “goals on healthcare reform are to provide patient-centered reforms that provide better access to high quality, affordable care and cover pre-existing conditions without lifetime limits. ”
“I did not support the AHCA today because (of) the many uncertainties in achieving those goals,” she said.
The other two Republicans who voted against the bill, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Walter Jones of North Carolina, did so not out of any fear of Democratic competition but because they believe the repeal measure doesn’t go far enough.
“As recently as a year ago, Republicans argued that mandates were unconstitutional, bailouts were immoral and subsidies would bankrupt our country,” Massie said in a statement after the vote. “Today, however, the House voted for a healthcare bill that makes these objectionable measures permanent.”
Jones had earlier said the attempt by House Republican leaders to push an Obamacare bill repeal through the House on a rushed schedule was “shameful,” and he called for scrapping the bill in its entirety and starting over.
Of the 138 Southern Republicans in the House, 133 voted in favor of the AHCA. Five of those members represent districts where Democrats could conceivably use their votes for the new health care law to try to unseat them. In fact, if any one of them had voted no, the bill — which passed by just a single vote — would have failed, which will allow Democrats to make the argument that each of them bears responsibility for its passage.
This group of members who supported the bill includes two of the region’s most vulnerable House Republicans, Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast, both from Florida. Curbelo represents a district in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties that Clinton carried; Mast’s district, which includes St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties, has changed parties in three of the last four election cycles.
In a statement, Mast said the GOP health care plan “returns control of health care from Washington back to you and restores access to quality, affordable options that are tailored to your individual needs.” He also pushed back against Democratic criticism that a provision in the new law allowing states to waive mandates for coverage of pre-existing conditions would imperil coverage for the sickest Americans.
“This bill mandates that people cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and allocates almost $140 billion in additional funding that will subsidize coverage for people with pre-existing conditions to ensure they costs are low,” Mast said. “Those claiming otherwise are the same people who said ‘if you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor,” and they’re putting partisan politics ahead of the people in our community.”
Also voting yes were John Culberson of Texas, whose metro Houston House district was carried by Clinton; Mario Diaz-Balart, whose majority Latino district in metro Miami and southwest Florida went for Trump by less than 2 points; and Ted Budd of North Carolina, whose Greensboro-area district went for Trump by 9 points.
In a statement, Diaz-Balart conceded the AHCA was “far from perfect.” But he said the House needed to act because Obamacare “is collapsing,” leaving just one insurance provider in two of the three counties he represents.
“Knowing the people I represent could very well lose their coverage … is disturbing,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for Congress not to act in order to prevent this from happening.”
Budd also conceded in a statement that “the legislative process is a human process with all the flaws that entails. The results of that process are never perfect, and this bill isn’t either.”
“What I believe it will do is significantly reduce insurance premiums in our state, and help put the individual insurance marketplace on a more sound financial footing,” he said.
Also voting yes was Pete Sessions of Texas, whose metro Dallas district was also won by Clinton. However, Sessions, who has been in the House since 1997 and won re-election by more than 50 points in 2016, is not considered vulnerable to a Democratic challenge.
All 40 of the Democrats representing districts in the South voted against the AHCA.