Five days after Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene first made comments comparing mask-wearing policies in Congress to the Holocaust and just hours after she reiterated those comments on Tuesday, the two top Republican leaders in the House finally moved to condemn her for her remarks.
“Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling. The Holocaust is the greatest atrocity committed in history. The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement released Tuesday morning.
“Rep. (Steve) Scalise does not agree with these comments and condemns these comparisons to the Holocaust,” said a spokesperson for the Louisiana Republican who serves as the House minority whip.
Those statements are the easy part. The harder work – and tougher choices – for GOP leaders start now.
See, condemning Greene’s ignorant and offensive comparisons between the murder of 6 million Jews and Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that members of Congress need to wear masks on the floor of the House is a total no-brainer. Comparing anything to the barbarity of concentration camps and gas chambers is a mistake. Doing so in the context of wearing a mask to prevent the further spread of a pandemic that has killed almost 600,000 Americans in the last 15 months is even more appalling.
What’s harder is following up those words with some actions. And if past is prologue, that’s very, very unlikely.
It took McCarthy and Scalise days to decide that they needed to speak out against one of their members who was – and I am saying this again because it’s so outlandish – comparing the need to wear a mask on the House floor to the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany. That delay comes after McCarthy refused to strip Greene of her committee assignments following a series of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments she made prior to coming to Congress. (The House Democratic majority took away Greene’s committees in February.) Then after Greene confronted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) outside of the Capitol earlier this month, Republicans did nothing.
And even in the statements distancing themselves from Greene’s Holocaust comments, both McCarthy and Scalise quickly tried to change the subject from the controversial Georgia freshman congresswoman to Democrats.
“At a time when the Jewish people face increased violence and threats, anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Democrat Party and is completely ignored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” said McCarthy. Added Scalise’s spokesperson: “We also need to be speaking out strongly against the dangerous anti-Semitism that is growing in our streets and in the Democrat party, resulting in an alarming number of horrific violent attacks against Jews.”
See, the real problem here is Nancy Pelosi! Not Greene! Or, at least, they are roughly the same level of problem!
What could the likes of McCarthy and Scalise actually do to punish Greene?
The most obvious – and public – would be a formal censure vote in the House. A resolution would be offered disapproving of Greene’s words and actions and, if it secured majority support, she would be forced to go to the “well” of the House and be verbally scolded, in essence, by the Speaker of the House.
While censure isn’t super common, it has been done with some regularity over the years in Congress. Nearly two dozen members have been formally censured, according to the US House’s website The most recent was New York Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) in 2010 for misuse of campaign funds and materials.
Or, if Republican leaders didn’t want to go as far as backing a censure vote, they could push for Greene to be formally reprimanded by the House. The last member to be reprimanded was Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert (R) in 2020, following a House Ethics Committee investigation that revealed that he had made a series of serious campaign finance violations.
Another option available to McCarthy and Scalise would be to keep the penalty for Greene in house – announcing, for example, that no GOP committees would accept contributions from Greene or use her to raise money for those campaign arms. (Greene has proven to be one of the strongest fundraisers in the Republican Party; she brought in more than $3 million in her first three months in Congress.)
To do any of those things would send a signal – to the Republican base and the country – that views like Greene’s are anathema to the GOP. That, no matter how much the party base (and the former president of the United States) loves her, the Republican Party cannot and will not condone her behavior.
Again, however, all signs point to McCarthy and Scalise releasing statements – and then not doing much else. Which hurts Greene not at all – and, in fact, likely emboldens her (and her ilk) to keep pushing extreme and intolerant views in order to gain more attention and own the libs. Or something.