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Marjorie Taylor Greene is turning back to her old ways

Brent D. Griffiths   

Marjorie Taylor Greene is turning back to her old ways
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is returning to her roots in her turn against Speaker Mike Johnson.
  • Greene rebranded herself as more of an insider under Kevin McCarthy's speakership.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was inside.

It may seem like distant history, but it was only 14 months ago. Greene embraced Kevin McCarthy on the House floor just as the Californian was about to realize his lifelong ambition to become Speaker of the House.

McCarthy's predecessor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had helped push Greene into exile in a move that could have ended her career. Instead, the Georgia Republican returned to Washington on the verge of reclaiming her committee assignments. Greene turned her punishment into a conservative platform powerful enough to stoke vice presidential rumors. But first, she wanted to preserve the moment with a selfie.

"I will never leave that woman," McCarthy told a friend after getting elected speaker, according to The New York Times. "I will always take care of her."

McCarthy did leave Congress, electing to bolt from the Capitol early after his historic ouster. Greene's ally was gone. She embraced his successor, Speaker Mike Johnson, but their relationship is fundamentally different.

Last week, Greene filed a motion — "more of a warning than a pink slip," as she put it — that could trigger a vote on Johnson's ouster. She was enraged about Johnson's government funding deal with Senate Democrats and the White House, deeming it a full surrender.

"Mike Johnson did nothing to stop the deep state," Greene later told former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon.

Johnson hailed the bill for including conservative wins in a divided government. The speaker, per Politico, pointed out that the GOP secured more money for additional border patrol agents, cut funding to the IRS and State Department, and maintained the controversial Hyde amendment on federal funding for abortions.

It is notable that when given the chance to express disapproval of Greene's actions, McCarthy instead insisted that she wanted to be heard. Unlike in the case of McCarthy's ouster, Greene has yet to use her procedural power to force the House to vote on Johnson's status. If she were to do so, the House would have to take action within 48 legislative hours.

"I watched that with Marjorie, from the vote to speaker to the vote for the Fiscal Responsibility Act," McCarthy told CBS' "Face the Nation," on Sunday, referencing his debt deal with President Joe Biden. "There are times she was a difference of opinion. And you sit down and find common ground." (McCarthy's debt deal was one of the major steps that sparked his ouster.)

Greene's action carries some risk for Republicans, given their slim majority. If a vote were to occur, it could force Johnson to cut a deal with Democrats.

Greene is returning to her roots.

Greene began like most modern outsiders: online.

Her love for then-candidate Donald Trump began her pivot away from CrossFit and into a stream of commentary on everything from the QAnon conspiracy to endorsing the execution of Democrats.

GOP leaders, including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisana, shunned Greene after some of her posts became public. She still won.

In the weeks after her election, more of Greene's posts came to light, including musing that "Jewish space lasers" caused California wildfires. She also wrote in agreement with a commentator who suggested 9/11 was a false flag. In an extensive floor speech, Greene pleaded with her colleagues. She said the past posts "do not represent me." Undeterred, Democrats and 11 Republicans voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments. McCarthy condemned her past statements but slammed Democrats for punishing her largely by themselves.

She refused to let others end her career.

It could have been the end of Greene's career in Congress. Instead, she avoided the scorn back home that doomed Rep. Steve King of Iowa when Republicans booted him off of committees in 2019. Greene turned the scandal into millions of dollars in campaign donations. McCarthy continued to criticize her at times, but Trump's embrace of her as "a future Republican star" increased her protection.

Greene joined the House Freedom Caucus, the somewhat secretive group of conservative rabble-rousers within the House GOP. In the meantime, Greene, as the Times pointed out, helped signal where much of the GOP was headed on issues such as the legacy of January 6 and vaccine mandates.

Greene's relationship with McCarthy came at a cost.

Recent generations of House conservatives have viewed themselves more as a check on their party's leadership and less as partners in governing. It's not unheard of for former critics to be brought into the fold — just look at House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan who helped derail McCarthy's first bid to become speaker.

But Greene did more than just push her colleagues to back McCarthy as the speakership election turned into a dayslong slog. According to The Daily Beast, Greene confronted Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican and notable holdout, in a House bathroom. She also, famously, tried to hand a phone to Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Montana Republican, to talk to Trump. Tensions, especially with Boebert, later culminated in Greene being voted out of the Freedom Caucus.

In some ways, Greene never changed. But McCarthy's ouster led her to re-up her resurgent voice, such as when she criticized fellow Republicans for initially punting on impeaching Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Along the way, she still courted controversy, like when she decided to showcase nude and slightly redacted photos of Hunter Biden during a House hearing. (Greene lashed out at Democrats who criticized the choice.)

She's not completely cast off either. GOP leaders tapped her to be an impeachment manager for Mayorkas' likely trial after Greene helped lead the push for just the second-ever impeachment of a Cabinet secretary in history. It remains unclear when the trial will be as House Republicans have still not formally sent their charges to the Senate.

There was a new unmistakable image last week: Greene standing alone on the steps of Capitol as a large group of reporters hounded her to explain why she moved against Johnson. Previously, Greene had urged her colleagues to understand that Republicans are limited by what they can accomplish with a historically narrow majority. There were no such caveats this time.

Greene stressed that unnamed Republicans (the exact number of which she also declined to reveal) supported her choice to leave a sword hanging over Johnson's head that she could move to drop at any moment. Greene also emphasized that she truly cared about her colleagues, just look at the money she's paid to the House GOP's campaign arm. It was a very insidery defense of the ultimate betrayal of her own party's speaker.

"I'm not introducing this to throw the House into chaos," she said. "Committees will continue to do their work. Investigations will continue. I support my conference. Again, I have paid all my dues to the NRCC and then some."

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