Michigan Democrats vote to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees

Washington — House Democrats voted Thursday to punish Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia for past inflammatory remarks by stripping her of her committee assignments.

Lawmakers voted 230-199 on a rare resolution to remove one of their own — freshman Greene — from her seats on the House Committee on Education and Labor and the Budget Committee, citing the “conduct she has exhibited."Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in voting yes, including Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph.

Greene spoke on the House floor Thursday and distanced herself from some of her past statements but did not apologize. "I walked away from those things," she said.

In this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., wears a "Trump Won" face mask as she arrives on the floor of the House to take her oath of office on opening day of the 117th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

But U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, a Bloomfield Township Democrat who sits on the education panel, said Greene must go, highlighting her past remarks embracing violence against liberals and QAnon-linked conspiracy theories about Sept. 11 and mass school shootings being hoaxes.

More: Greene regrets ‘words of the past’ without explicit apology

"This is a person who has supported the idea of assassinating the Speaker of the House. This is a person who has on video harassed a teenager after he was a victim of a mass shooting at a school and a person who says that that and other school shooting events were false flags," Levin told The Detroit News. 

"As a Jewish person, what am I supposed to say about a person who says that the wildfires in California were the result of Jewish space lasers? I mean the Republicans stripped committee assignments from one of their members before who did far less than Marjorie Taylor Greene. They do not have the courage to do so now."

Republican House lawmakers warned that Thursday's resolution would introduce a dangerous precedent by effectively allowing the majority party a say in which lawmakers in the minority may serve on committees — a decision traditionally left to party leaders.

"Should the opposing party be able to decide who the other party's members are on committees? The answer to that is no," said Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton, a senior Republican on the Education and Labor Committee.

"The Democrats would be screaming to high heaven if Kevin McCarthy were speaker and saying that (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) or in our case Rashida Tlaib or (Ilhan) Omar, because of their strong statements at times, should not be allowed to be on certain committees. That has never been done. It's been left up to the party."

But U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat, called Greene's remarks "outrageous" and said "She needs to be removed."

"Someone that stalked a survivor of a school shooting and isn’t remorseful about it should think long and hard about whether they belong on an education committee."

Greene, wearing a mask that said "Free Speech," defended herself during the Thursday debate on the floor, saying her past remarks don't represent her.

"I never once said any of the things that I am being accused of today during my campaign. I never said any of these things since I have been elected for Congress," she 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."

Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat, said Greene ran campaign ads holding an assault rifle next to photos of Tlaib and Omar of Minnesota — the first two female Muslim members of the House — and that they swear their oath of office on the Bible instead of the Quran.

"In today's Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene's world views are violent, anti-Black, racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and they are condoned," Tlaib said during Thursday's debate. 

"Every single day that goes by without outright condemnation from every single one of her Republican colleagues without consequences for her extremist views is an outright endorsement of white supremacy." 

The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, this week disavowed Greene’s comments on school shootings, political violence and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but said he would not remove her from committees, only reassign her. 

McCarthy has accused Democrats of a partisan "power grab” in interfering with GOP committee assignments. 

Walberg noted that McCarthy had an extensive meeting with Greene and concluded that there were problems and changes would be made.

"But that's not to be made by the other party. It sets a precedent in place that could be used abused by both sides in years to come," Walberg said.

"There will be a time in the next election that the Republicans will be in majority. Democrats need to be asking themselves: Are they willing to have Speaker of the House if it's Kevin McCarthy deciding who will sit on committees?"

Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Holland Republican, said the Democrats' resolution is "unprecedented" in the history of Congress. "This has not been done ever," Huizenga told WHTC Radio Thursday. 

"I don't really know her. I have read through media accounts (of her remarks) that are very disturbing, distasteful. She addressed this at a five-hour conference we had," Huizenga said. 

"She disavowed any of this QAnon connection. She said she discovered lots of mistruths in what had been going on, apologized to the conference and is hoping to move on. I think that as a whole that apology was accepted," he added. 

"If we're going to start doing this, I've got a few candidates on the other side of the aisle who have said some pretty controversial stuff."

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, rejected the GOP's argument on setting a poor precedent. 

"The thing that’s unprecedented is Marjorie Taylor Greene: A person who endorses a statement that calls for the killing of the Speaker of the House. She can parse that any way she wants to, but there's no precedent for that," said Kildee, chief deputy whip for House Democrats.

"Her district can send who they want, but we organize the House and I think we have a right to make decisions about a person who's just wholly unacceptable in terms of these dangerous views that she holds."

Greene, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, said Thursday that in 2017 she didn't trust the government and went looking for answers on the internet, where she discovered the far-right QAnon community.

QAnon espouses a baseless conspiracy theory that Trump is waging a campaign against “deep state” enemies and a child sex trafficking ring run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles.

"The problem with that is, though, is I was allowed to believe things that weren't true," she said. "That is absolutely what I regret."

Greene said the Sept. 11 attacks and school shootings "absolutely" happened and said she understands the "fear" experienced by students like Parkland survivor David Hogg because when she was 16 a schoolmate brought guns to school and took her school "hostage."

Greene in her speech criticized "cancel culture," the Black Lives Matter movement and said the media are “Just as guilty as QAnon of presenting truth and lies to divide us.”

"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 and to someone that we're not. And that is wrong," Greene said.

"If this Congress is to tolerate members that condone riots that have hurt American people, attack police officers, occupied federal property, burned businesses and cities, yet wants 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. A very big problem."

Greene has been fundraising off of the push to expel her from her committees, tweeting she brought in over $175,000 in recent days. 

Freshman Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township, said she doesn't agree with or support many of the things Greene has said in the past. But "it is not my job in the House to remove members from their committees this way," she said.

"Many Democrat members have said inflammatory things, or even worse, have acted inappropriately and put our national security at risk and are still serving on their committees," McClain said. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Holly Democrat, said Greene had "crossed the Rubicon" when she encouraged violence and assassination of political leaders and supported anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

"When given the opportunity to apologize for both, she refused to and doubled down publicly in supporting those very things," said Slotkin, who is Jewish. "I wish that the Republican caucus had done it on his own."

She noted that House Republicans in 2019 sanctioned GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa and pulled him from his committees over racist comments.

"I'm using, frankly, the Republican standard from 2019 and applying it to her," Slotkin said of Greene.

"And let me be clear ... if there are Democratic members who meet that same threshold of inciting or supporting violence and refusing to apologize for it, they should be handled with the same approach."

mburke@detroitnews.com