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Opinion: Democrats drew a line against Marjorie Taylor Greene’s violent threats. That’s a good place for it

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears a "Free Speech" mask.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., goes back to her office after speaking on the floor of the House Chamber in Washington on Thursday.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has a self-awareness problem.

At a news conference Friday morning, the freshman congresswoman blasted the media for “addicting people to hate” — then said the duly elected Democrats constituted a “tyrannically controlled government,” called one of her Democratic colleagues a communist (after having called her a liar), and pointedly refused to renounce her call last year for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be tried for treason.

If we are addicted, Mrs. Greene, you’re one of the pushers.

Greene’s problems with discernment clearly extend to her GOP colleagues too. House Republicans warned Thursday that Democrats would be setting a precedent that would come back to haunt them if they stripped Greene of her committee assignments for her history of provocative remarks. It wasn’t an idle threat; Republicans have already indicated to Democrats that at least one of their members might be sanctioned if the GOP regained the majority.

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But all 219 Democrats who cast votes on Thursday moved ahead to punish Greene anyway, joined by 11 of the 210 Republicans. That’s because they saw Greene as breaking a different norm, and the punishment setting a different precedent, than Republicans did.

Judging by the remarks on the House floor, the vote wasn’t really about Greene’s loony conspiracy theories, even the anti-Semitic ones. It wasn’t about her denying the reality of the plane crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11. It wasn’t about her enduring fealty to Donald Trump and his efforts to cling to power (despite Greene’s claim to the contrary in a fundraising appeal Thursday).

It was about the violent threats she made or endorsed against Democrats in Congress.

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Greene’s scorched-earth pugnacity is hardly novel — her incessant criticism of Democrats recalls 1990s Newt Gingrich, although with fewer rhetorical flourishes. Nor is she the only one who has difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy when discussing her opponents — the hyperbole from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) about President Trump comes to mind, not to mention the musings of Arizona’s Republican representatives.

Where Greene crossed the line was in the violent threats against her future colleagues that she voiced or endorsed on her Facebook page. Combined with her gun-rights zealotry — what kind of person chases after and taunts a school shooting survivor in the name of defending the 2nd Amendment? — such comments as Greene’s call in 2019 for her followers to go to Washington, “shut down everything” and “flood the Capitol building” to instill fear in Democratic lawmakers are undeniably menacing.

“No one else on this floor has called for violence against other members and law enforcement,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the sponsor of the resolution to remove Greene from her committees. “Only one member has done that, and refused to back down. That is the precedent that we are dealing with today.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) brought to the House floor a blown-up image of one of Greene’s Facebook posts during the campaign. The post featured Greene, dressed in a black blazer and holding an assault rifle with a scope, next to a collage of pictures of Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

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“I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle when they take this vote: Imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said, as quoted by the Hill. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be and would you think that that person ought to be held accountable?”

Although Greene had told the House she no longer believes in QAnon and some of the other bat-brained conspiracy theories she had espoused, she didn’t renounce the violence-tinged comments and endorsements. Nor did she apologize to the House — for anything. The first public “I’m sorry” came at Friday’s news conference, in blanket form: “I’m sorry for saying all those things that are wrong and offensive.”

The Republicans who defended Greene on the floor somehow missed the connection between her threats and Democrats’ outrage. Instead, they argued either that her comments were off the table because she made them before her election, or that they were no worse than the questionable or offensive comments that Democratic representatives had made. They contended that removing Greene from her committees set a precedent for House majorities deciding which members of the minority are unfit to fulfill all the duties of their office.

They’re right about the possibility of escalating removals, although that power has always been there. After each party’s leadership assigns its members to committees, the choices must be ratified by the full House (and they routinely have been). But going forward, the question will be what line will a member have to cross in order to prompt the majority to revoke a minority’s assignments.

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With their action against Greene, House Democrats (and the 11 Republicans who voted with them) have drawn the line at threatening physical harm to the institution and its members. That’s a good place to put it. We’ll see whether the GOP finds a different spot.

Meanwhile, Greene said she’s delighted to have more time to spend “to talk to a whole lot more people,” presumably about what she calls “the policies which disgust me” — abortion, foreign aid, immigration, the federal debt and gun rights were the touch points she cited Friday. “If I was on a committee,” she said, “I’d be wasting my time because my conservative values wouldn’t be heard.”

She may have even more time if Democrats decide to take up the resolution by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) to expel her from the House. That’s a battle for another week.


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