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Politics updates: 11 Republicans vote to remove Greene from committees; Biden withdraws 30 Trump nominations

Matthew Brown, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King, Christal Hayes, Jeanine Santucci, Joey Garrison and Michael Collins, USA TODAY
·18 min read
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The Democratic-led House took the unprecedented step Thursday of removing GOP Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committees, saying the stream of inflammatory and menacing social media posts by her prior to become a lawmaker last month was too much to overlook.

The 230-199 vote was almost entirely along party lines, with 11 Republicans joining every other Democrat in voting to unseat her from the Education & Labor Committee and the Budget Committee.

House Republicans Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called it a “partisan power grab," saying Greene deserved leniency because her posts occurred before she was sworn into Congress. He also warned in floor debate before the vote that the unprecedented act of one party unseating a member of another without bipartisan consent would lead to reprisals in the future.

Democrats said they were compelled to act after GOP leaders declined to punish her.

“We are dealing with conduct that brings shame on this House, the kind of conduct that fuels domestic terrorism," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who sponsored the resolution against Greene.

Thursday’s action came almost a month after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol to try to stop Congress from counting the Electoral College votes that affirmed Joe Biden’s win. Greene continues to assert – without evidence – that the election was stolen from Trump.

Greene came to the floor earlier Thursday to disavow some of her previous incendiary posts on social media in a last-ditch effort to avoid punishment.

Though she expressed some regret, Greene never apologized during her speech on the House floor.

“During my campaign, I never said any of these things,” she said. “Since I have been elected for Congress. 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.”

Read the full story.

— Ledyard King

Biden withdraws Trump’s nomination of Judy Shelton to Federal Reserve

President Joe Biden on Thursday withdrew 30 nominations that former President Donald Trump sent to the Senate during his final weeks in office, including his controversial pick of conservative economist Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Shelton, an economic adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was first nominated to the Federal Reserve board in July of 2019. The Senate narrowly voted to block her appointment in November after she came under fire for her views, such as embracing the gold standard and changing positions on interest rates.

Trump re-nominated Shelton to the Federal Reserve board in January, but it was a long-shot bid after control of the Senate flipped to Democrats following December’s pair of special elections in Georgia.

Her withdrawal gives Biden an opportunity to fill the lone vacancy on the seven-member Federal Reserve board, which operates as the central banking system of the U.S.

Other nominations that Biden withdrew include Trump picks for federal judges, U.S. marshals, the Tennessee Valley Authority board and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, among other appointments.

— Joey Garrison

GOP senators raise ‘significant’ questions about Biden's COVID relief plan

Ten Republican senators who are pushing for a scaled-back COVID-19 relief package said Thursday they still have significant questions about the size and scope of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan.

In a letter to Biden, the senators led by Susan Collins of Maine pointed out that more than $60 billion in emergency funding that Congress appropriated for states and school districts last year still hasn’t been spent. Biden is asking for an additional $35 billion for school-based COVID mitigation strategies and another $50 billion to help schools add staff and reduce the size of classes.

The senators also reiterated that any future direct payments to Americans should be directed to families with the greatest needs. “We do not believe that families making up to $300,000 per year need these direct payments,” they wrote.

Biden met Monday in the Oval Office with the GOP senators, who have proposed $618 billion in COVID relief. Their proposal would scrap Biden’s plan for $350 billion in direct aide to state and local governments, reduce direct payments to Americans from $1,400 to $1,000 and remove Biden’s proposal to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The White House has said Biden remains open to looking for possible areas for compromise but stands firm in his belief that $1.9 trillion is needed to boost the U.S. recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Biden and congressional Democrats are barreling ahead with their plans to pass a COVID-relief bill without GOP support if necessary.

— Michael Collins

Impeachment managers request Trump testify under oath in impeachment trial

House Democrats presenting the impeachment case against President Donald Trump requested he testify under oath either before or during next week's impeachment trial in the Senate.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a former constitutional law professor leading Democrats' case, wrote in a letter to Trump his response to the article of impeachment had "denied many factual allegations," and therefore Democrats requested Trump testify as early as next Monday and no later than next Thursday.

"If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021," Raskin wrote.

Democrats in the House impeached Trump in January for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that left at least 5 people dead. The Senate is set to begin its trial next week.

– Nicholas Wu

Rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Marjorie Taylor Greene says past incendiary posts 'do not represent me'

Faced with the loss of her committee assignments, embattled Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene went on the House floor Thursday to explain some of her previous incendiary posts on social media in a last-ditch effort to avoid punishment.

“During my campaign, I never said any of these things,” she said. “Since I have been elected for Congress. 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.”

Sounding at times both contrite and combative, Taylor Greene argued the media had distorted her record by taking her posts out of context. But she also admitted she was naive and believed too much of what she read on the internet that fed into her mistrust of the government.

The House is set to vote on whether to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from House committees. Here's what this could mean for the congresswoman.
The House is set to vote on whether to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from House committees. Here's what this could mean for the congresswoman.

“The problem with that is though is I was allowed to believe things that weren't true and I would ask questions; questions about them and talk about them. And that is absolutely what I regret,” she said. “Because if it weren't for the Facebook post 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.”

“I've lived a very good life that I'm proud of, my family's proud of, my husband's proud of, my children are proud of,” she continued. “And that’s what my district elected me for.”

Before joining Congress. Greene had posted videos of her questioning whether the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks ever happened, stalking and taunting a teen survivor of the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and suggesting that space lasers were causing deadly wildfires in California, among a trove of posts unearthed by news outlets in recent weeks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the charge to remove her from the Education and Labor Committee n the Budget Committee, herself was a target. Greene "liked" a comment in January 2019 that said Pelosi should be taken out with a "bullet to the head." In a video around that time, Greene said Pelosi was "a traitor to our country, she's guilty of treason," saying it was "a crime punishable by death."

– Ledyard King

Biden to end US support of offensive operations in Yemen

The Biden administration said Thursday it will end U.S. support of Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, marking a sharp departure from former President Trump, who resisted efforts to halt the U.S. military’s role in Yemen’s horrific civil war.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced the move at a press briefing Thursday, previewing a speech Biden will give Thursday afternoon at the State Department. Sullivan said the decision reflects Biden’s priority of “reasserting our values” through foreign policy.

Sullivan said Biden plans to play a “more active and engaged role in the diplomacy to bring an end to the conflict in Yemen.” That includes naming a new special envoy in Yemen, who Biden will name later Thursday.

American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen began under the Obama administration, but Trump doubled down on it.

In 2019, Trump vetoed a measure that would have forced his administration to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He also sought to bypass Congress to continue selling weapons to the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, despite concerns in both parties about the sales.

Sullivan said the U.S. will halt the sale of arms and munitions in Yemen and other actions that “perpetuated a civil war Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis.” He said the new policy does not extend to U.S. efforts aimed at the AQAP, the region’s brutal Al Qaeda affiliate.

– Joey Garrison

Pelosi says minimum wage increase could be addressed outside COVID-19 relief bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she'd accept leaving the $15 minimum wage out of the COVID-19 stimulus bill as the provision faces opposition in the Senate.

Pelosi told reporters the boost to the federal minimum wage could be addressed in another bill, saying "we have other places to do it."

Democrats are poised to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package under a process known as “reconciliation” that allows legislation to pass with just a simple majority but places certain constraints on bills going through the process. Raising the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $15, a top Democratic priority, could be among the provisions to fall victim to the process.

Despite the opposition, Pelosi called it a “very high priority for us."

$15 minimum wage: Bernie Sanders, Democrats push for $15 minimum wage by 2025, passage faces tough sledding in Congress

Some Democrats in the Senate have expressed opposition to the $15 minimum wage too. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., a key moderate, has said he did not support the $15 wage, citing issues like inflation that would make a lower wage like $11 more appropriate in some states like his own.

But Pelosi said she would not pare down the price tag of the package, saying Democrats wanted to save lives and livelihoods, and “it's going to cost some money to do so"

– Nicholas Wu

House Democrats to vote to remove GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of committee assignments

House Democrats are set to push ahead with stripping Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments after Republicans opted not to punish the Georgia congresswoman for past comments she’s made in support of harmful conspiracy theories.

Greene has claimed that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and high-profile school shootings like the Sandy Hook Elementary attack are hoaxes and has called for the execution of prominent Democrats.

The Rules Committee Wednesday voted to bring the matter to the full House for a vote Thursday that will decide whether Greene can stay on her committees for the rest of her term.

More: Donald Trump's backers failed to take down Liz Cheney. But the GOP's 'civil war' is nowhere near over.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the Democrats Greene had said should be killed, denounced Republicans for not expelling Greene from the caucus. "McCarthy has chosen to make House Republicans 'the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon' and Rep. Greene is in the driver’s seat," Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday that identified McCarthy’s party identification as “Q.”

“We had hoped that the Republican leadership would have dealt with this. For whatever reason, they don’t want to deal with it. And that's unfortunate. So we are taking this step," said Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass, who chairs the Rules Committee. "The question we all have to ask ourselves is what is the consequence of doing nothing.”

The House GOP vote on Greene came in tandem with a decision to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, the only women in Republican leadership and one of the few to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, in her post as the third highest ranking member of the caucus.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he told Greene as a member of Congress, they have a “responsibility to hold ourselves to a higher standard than how she presented herself as a private citizen,” which Greene reportedly acknowledged to her Republican colleagues behind closed doors. She has not expressed public remorse for her comments.

– Matthew Brown

Pelosi throws down gauntlet in Senate impeachment trial: ‘Courage or cowardice’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a fiery justification Thursday for pursuing the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump after he left office by saying it will reveal whether the Senate has “courage or cowardice.”

The California Democrat was asked at her weekly news conference why House members would bother with the trial after a Senate procedural vote suggested Trump would be acquitted. The Senate rejected a motion to find the case unconstitutional, but the 45 Republicans who supported the motion suggested that Trump will have support from more than 34 needed for acquittal.

Pelosi forcefully rejected that reasoning, saying senators haven’t yet heard the case. A two-thirds majority of the 100 members would be required to convict Trump of inciting insurrection in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Pelosi said House prosecutors are carefully preparing their case for the court of the Senate, the court of public opinion and for history.

“We’ll see if it’s going to be a Senate of courage or cowardice,” Pelosi said.

Republicans have argued that the trial is divisive. But Pelosi quoted Pope Paul VI and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying that justice is required for peace. She said the founders who wrote the Constitution included impeachment as a penalty for wrongdoing.

“If we were not to follow up with this, we might as well remove any penalty from the Constitution of impeachment. Just take it out,” Pelosi said. “They were fearful of a demagogue and they were fearful of a demagogue and a mob. That’s exactly what descended.”

– Bart Jansen

Kevin McCarthy flubs QAnon pronunciation, claims he doesn't know what it is

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., claimed Wednesday evening he did not know what the QAnon conspiracy theory is despite past comments indicating clear knowledge of the wide-ranging harmful ideology.

“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us. Denouncing Q-on, I don't know if I say it right, I don't even know what it is – any from the shootings, she said she knew nothing about lasers, all of the different things that have been brought up about her,” McCarthy told reporters after exiting a private Republican conference meeting Wednesday evening.

The minority leader’s comments come despite his condemnation of QAnon during an August interview with Fox News, when McCarthy expressly connected QAnon in the context of Greene’s run for Congress, saying “no place for QAnon in the Republican Party.”

McCarthy also inaccurately stated in his August interview that Greene had denounced QAnon when she ran for Congress; Greene did not reject the conspiracy theory while campaigning, nor did she do so publicly when asked by reporters Wednesday evening.

More: Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna wants the Biden admin. to consider giving COVID vaccine as a single dose

In a statement Wednesday, McCarthy condemned comments Greene made on social media in 2018 and 2019 where she expressed support for violence and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including QAnon, but declined to take away Greene’s committee assignments.

"Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference," McCarthy said. "I condemn those comments unequivocally. I condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today."

House Democrats are now set to vote to strip Greene of her committee assignments, calling her a threat to their personal safety and too unbalanced to sit in Congress.

QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy theory which contends many high-profile liberals participate in a global cannibalistic cabal of pedophiles who eat children for life support. The movement’s mythology idolizes former President Donald Trump and has the various characteristics of a moral panic, political movement and age-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

– Matthew Brown

AP Poll: Most Americans confident in Biden’s ability to manage ongoing crises

A majority of Americans have at least some confidence that President Joe Biden’s administration will be able to address the multiple crises stressing the nation, according to a new poll from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs.

The poll found that Americans broadly endorse Biden’s competence at governance, including in his ability to appoint well-qualified leaders and serve as commander-in-chief of the military.

Overall, 61% Americans approve of Biden’s early moves as president. 70% of Americans say they believe Biden respects American institutions. That finding stands slightly above the average approval rating of 55% past presidents normally enjoy in their first 100 days, and significantly higher than former President Donald Trump’s approval rating, who never polled above 50%.

Americans were most confident in Biden’s ability to incorporate advice from his advisors into decision making, with 47% expressing a great deal of confidence and 32% expressing some confidence. Similarly, 44% of Americans also expressed great confidence and 29% expressed some confidence in the president’s ability to effectively manage the White House.

Respondents were most pessimistic, though, about Biden’s ability to reduce corruption in Washington, with only 18% expressing a great deal of confidence and 37% expressing some confidence.

20% of Americans have a great deal of confidence that Biden and Congressional Republicans will be able to work together; 45% have some confidence the White House and Republicans in Congress will be able to find some consensus.

– Matthew Brown

Though Republicans were united in opposing the first impeachment of Trump in 2019, 10 broke ranks Wednesday when they voted alongside Democrats to impeach the president. They included the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. She was joined by:
Though Republicans were united in opposing the first impeachment of Trump in 2019, 10 broke ranks Wednesday when they voted alongside Democrats to impeach the president. They included the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. She was joined by:

House Republicans vote to keep Cheney as conference leader

House Republicans voted 145-61 to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., as the third-most powerful member of the party on Wednesday evening, with one member voting "present."

The vote came after a tumultuous closed-door meeting among House Republicans tat lasted for hours.

With the vote, Cheney keeps her spot amid backlash she has faced in the weeks since she voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Some of her GOP colleagues, such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, had been vocal about stripping her of her role.

But Cheney got the backing of some major players in the party, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said she "is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters that he defended Cheney during the meeting.

“People can have differences of opinion,” he said. “Liz has a right to vote her conscience and at the end of the day, we get united.”

Republicans also decide not to punish Greene

At the same meeting, House Republicans also decided not to take any punitive action against freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., whose comments implying support for QAnon and other conspiracy theories has drawn scorn from Democrats and some Republicans.

However, the Democratic-led House will vote today to remove Greene from her committee posts. The Rules Committee voted Wednesday to bring the matter to the full House for a vote that will decide whether the congresswoman can stay on her committees for the rest of her term, which expires in January 2023.

A series of incendiary, conspiratorial and racist posts on social media Greene made before she was elected resurfaced in recent days, prompting Democrats to call for her to be stripped of her House committee assignments and even be expelled from the chamber.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., told reporters that Greene apologized for her past remarks and disavowed QAnon, conspiracies of which she has shared.

McConnell said previously that the Georgia congresswoman's embrace of conspiracy theories and "loony lies" is a "cancer for the Republican Party."

-Ledyard King, Nicholas Wu, Jeanine Santucci

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: House removes Marjorie Taylor Greene from committees