The US House of Representatives has voted to expel a Republican congresswoman from two committees over incendiary remarks she made before being elected last November.
Marjorie Taylor Greene had promoted baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against Democrats.
Before the vote, she said she regretted her views, which included claims that school shootings and 9/11 were staged.
Eleven Republicans joined the Democrats to pass the motion by 230-199.
It means the representative – who was elected in November, representing a district in the southern state of Georgia – cannot take up her place on the education and budget committees.
This would limit her ability to shape policy as most legislation goes through a committee before reaching the House floor. Committee positions can determine the influence of individual lawmakers in their party.
It is highly unusual for one party to intervene in another party’s House committee assignments.
On Friday, Mrs Greene said that she woke up “laughing” at the situation.
“I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving some one like me free time,” she tweeted, referencing the 11 Republicans who also voted to remove her.
At a news conference in Washington hours later, Mrs Greene said that Democrats had “stripped my district of their voice” by removing her from the committees.
She described the Democratic-run government as “tyrannically controlled” and denounced the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump – over his role in the 6 January riot – as a “circus”.
The lawmaker also criticised the media for “addicting people to hate”.
How did she explain her past comments?
According to The Hill, a political news outlet, Mrs Greene received a standing ovation at a closed-doors meeting with members of her party on Wednesday after she apologised for her past remarks, and on Thursday before the vote, she expressed regret for her past comments.
On the floor of the House, she said her controversial remarks had been made before she ran for office last year.
- She said she had “stopped believing” in QAnon – a conspiracy theory claiming that former President Donald Trump was waging a clandestine war on a Satan-worshipping cabal of child-abusers and cannibals – sometime in 2018 after finding “misinformation, lies and things that weren’t true” in the group’s posts
- She walked back comments suggesting that school shootings – such as the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook elementary school and the 2018 Parkland shooting – were staged. “School shootings are absolutely real,” Mrs Greene said on Thursday
- She retracted a past claim suggesting that no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11. “I want to tell you 9/11 absolutely happened,” she said. “I do not believe that it’s fake.”
“These were words of the past. These things do not represent me,” she said.
Mrs Greene said she had been “upset about things” happening in the US and did not trust the government when she came upon conspiracy theories online in 2018.
The 46-year-old also sought to pin blame on the media, saying they were “just as guilty as QAnon for promoting lies”.
But she did not address a series of past inflammatory remarks:
- She once liked a Facebook post calling for Mrs Pelosi to get “a bullet to the head” and replied to another calling for Barack Obama to be hanged: “Stage is being set”
- In 2019, she heckled a teenage survivor of the Parkland school shooting David Hogg and called him “a coward”
- She said the 2018 midterm elections ushered in “an Islamic invasion of our government”
- In 2018, she suggested the California wildfires were started by a space laser beam which was controlled by the Rothschilds, a prominent Jewish banking company
Asked by a reporter on Friday whether or not she was “sorry” for some of these additional remarks, Mrs Greene said she was “sorry for saying all those things that are wrong and offensive”.
She added that she was “not sorry” for speaking to Mr Hogg about gun rights, saying that “he was an adult when I spoke to him”.
A new cycle of political retribution?
After an afternoon of procedural manoeuvres and debate, a majority of the House of Representatives took the unprecedented step of voting to strip one of its members of her committee assignments because of what it deemed dangerous and toxic speech she made before she was elected.
Republicans warned that sanctioning Marjorie Taylor Greene set a dangerous precedent, where the majority party in the chamber could tell the minority how to allocate its committee seats.
Democrats countered that the real precedent would be if a member of the chamber made threats against her future colleagues – and the House did nothing. Because the Republicans refused to punish one of their own, the majority said they had to step in.
The House has sanctioned the conspiracy-minded Mrs Greene, but it may have started a new cycle of political retribution.
What did Democrats say?
Ahead of the vote, Mrs Pelosi said she was “profoundly concerned” by Republicans accepting “an extreme conspiracy theorist”.
Chuy Garcia, of Illinois, said Mrs Greene’s floor speech had come across as “premeditated”.
“I did not hear remorse and I didn’t hear an apology,” Mr Garcia said. “It’s all about spin and I think she’ll probably try to raise a lot of money from it. I think it’s disgraceful.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said before the vote: “I have never encountered a situation like the one before us now, where a member has made such vile and hurtful statements, engaged in the harassment of colleagues and expressed support for political violence.”
Jimmy Gomez, of California, vowed to press ahead with a resolution to expel Mrs Greene from Congress altogether.
Under section five of the US Constitution, a house can expel a member with a two-thirds majority, meaning that there would have to be significant support from Republicans in the narrowly divided House of Representatives.
How did Republicans react?
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy vowed retribution whenever his party next controls the lower chamber of Congress.
Accusing Democrats of a double standard, he referred to the 2019 anti-Semitism furore when Minnesota lawmaker Ilhan Omar implied US politicians only supported Israel because of lobby money, and Mrs Pelosi appeared with her that same month on a magazine cover.
On Wednesday, Mr McCarthy condemned Mrs Greene’s past remarks, but refused to punish her.
Jim Jordan of Ohio told the floor: “So who’s next? Who will the cancel culture attack next?”
He assailed Democrats for stoking unsubstantiated claims that Mr Trump secretly plotted with Russia to win the 2016 election.
“I’ve heard several times today from the Democrats: conspiracy theory. The Democrats peddled the biggest conspiracy theory of all time – the Russia hoax!”