The latest on Congress as GOP tensions rise

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:04 AM ET, Fri February 5, 2021
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1:25 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Greene defends herself on House floor and says past comments "do not represent my values" 

From CNN's Clare Foran, Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke from the House floor as the chamber prepares to vote on a resolution to strip her from her committee assignments due to extreme comments she made before winning her seat.

"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," Greene said.

Greene went on to say that she believes shootings are "absolutely real" and that 9/11 "absolutely happened." She did not apologize for her past comments.

Some context: Outrage over Greene, who has in the past embraced the dangerous and debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, grew more intense in Congress in the wake of a report from CNN's KFile that she repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.

The Georgia Republican has also faced backlash over recently resurfaced comments about the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

1:47 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

How today's House vote on removing Greene from committee assignments may play out

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

The House will vote today on a measure to remove Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes in the wake of recently unearthed incendiary and violent past statements from the congresswoman that have triggered widespread backlash from Democrats and divided congressional Republicans.

Below is some guidance on what to expect this afternoon in the House:

  • 1:30 p.m. ET: The House will begin debate on the rule. One hour of debate, divided evenly.
  • 2:30 p.m. ET: The House will vote on the rule. It takes about an hour to vote. 
  • 3:30 p.m. ET: The House will begin debate on the resolution. One hour of debate, divided evenly. 
  • 4:30 p.m. ET: The House will vote on the previous question. Vote takes about an hour. 
  • 5:30 p.m. ET: The House will vote on the resolution. Vote will be zippier because members linger in the chamber after so they can vote quickly on the final passage and conclude. 
  • 6-6:30 p.m. ET: Gavel on passage. 

Note: Timing can always shift, but this is what we expect. 

1:26 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

White House says Biden believes minimum wage should be raised

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated President Biden’s belief that the US minimum wage needs to be increased. Asked if it's something the President would be willing to drop in Covid relief bill negotiations, Psaki declined to say if it's a measure that's being included in the Democrat's budget reconciliation process. 

“Well, the President feels strongly that we need to raise the minimum wage and many economists agree with him and looks forward to working with Congress to do it,” she said. “Whether it can be done through the reconciliation process will be determined according to the House and Senate but I'm not going to negotiate further from here.”

Pushed further, Psaki reiterated her remarks and added, “there's obviously a process that's ongoing, the reconciliation process, that will make some determinations about what can and cannot be in the bill, based on rules.”

What is reconciliation? As Biden pursues a bipartisan Covid-19 relief deal, Senate Democrats are laying the groundwork for passing relief without any Republican votes using a procedural shortcut known as budget reconciliation.

Reconciliation could allow Democrats to fast track key aspects of Biden's agenda, from Covid-19 relief to infrastructure, but the process comes with a strict set of rules attached.

You can read more about this process here.

1:27 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Schumer says he met with Biden a few weeks ago to discuss canceling up to $50,000 in student loan debt 

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a 45-minute conversation with President Biden and his advisors “a few weeks ago” to discuss taking an executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt. 

Warren noted that the action would cost an estimated $650 billion.

“There is very little that the President could do with the flick of a pen that would boost our economy more than canceling $50,000 in student debt, it will be a huge push into our economy,” Schumer said Thursday.  

The New York Democrat made the remarks at a news conference calling on the President to take executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt, alongside Warren and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY).

Schumer argued that while he believes Biden has taken some steps in the direction of alleviating student debt, “he has to go much further.”

“They have been extremely open to listening to us Senator Warren and I had a 45 minute conversation with the president and his advisers just a few weeks ago… we believe the American people are strongly behind us on this issue overwhelmingly,” he said. Adding that if the American people and lawmakers keep pressuring the administration: “This is gonna happen.”

1:27 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

McConnell on Covid-19 relief: Economy doesn't need "another multi-trillion dollar, non-targeted band-aid"

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion plan addressing the coronavirus pandemic, saying it would blow up the deficit after Congress already passed “the largest federal response to any crisis since World War II.”

He argued that Congress just passed in December an additional $600 billion plan to assuage the health and economic crises, and argued that “nearly half” of the federal funding for testing and two thirds of the funding for vaccine distribution has not yet been spent.

“There's no doubt that some families are still struggling,” said McConnell. “This isn't finished. But experts agree that remaining damage to our economy does not require another multi-trillion dollar, non-targeted band-aid.”

“It will not serve Americans to pile another huge mountain of debt on our grandkids for policies that even liberal economists say are poorly-targeted to current needs,” he later said.

McConnell said that Republicans would put senators on record in the budget vote-a-rama, including on the Keystone pipeline, a “one-size-fits-all” minimum wage increase, “stimulus checks for illegal immigrants,” “pouring money into schools where unions are blocking reopening” and whether to delay new spending until existing funds have been spent.

1:28 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Pelosi voices deep concern over Republicans' acceptance of "extreme conspiracy theorists"

From CNN's Clare Foran, Annie Gray and Manu Raju

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized House Republicans for failing to punish Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying:

“I remain profoundly concerned about House Republicans leadership acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists, particularly disturbing is their eagerness to reward a QAnon adherent, a 9/11 truther, a harasser of child survivors of school shootings and to give them valued committee positions, including, who could imagine they would put such a person on the education committee.”

“Today the House will vote to remove Rep. Greene from her seat on Education and Labor and the Budget committees. It’s just so unfortunate. You would think that the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution as they did when they did not seat Rep. King of Iowa two years ago. For some reason, they have chosen not to go down that path even though we, Mr. Hoyer, gave leader McCarthy that this was a path we would follow,” she said.

Pelosi's comments come ahead of a House vote today on a measure to remove Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes in the wake of recently unearthed incendiary and violent past statements from the congresswoman that have triggered widespread backlash from Democrats and divided congressional Republicans.

Outrage over Greene, who has in the past embraced the dangerous and debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, grew more intense in Congress in the wake of a report from CNN's KFile that she repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.

WATCH:

11:30 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Pelosi unconcerned over potential GOP retaliation for Democrats stripping Greene of committees

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters this morning she has no concerns about Republicans retaliating for Democrats moving to strip GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees.

“If anybody starts threatening the lives of members of Congress on the Democratic side, we’d be the first to eliminate them from committees. They had the opportunity to do so. I’m not answering any more questions about it," she told reporters.

Pelosi's comments come ahead of a House vote today on a measure to remove Greene from her committee assignments, a decisive step that comes in the wake of recently unearthed incendiary and violent past statements from the congresswoman that have triggered widespread backlash from Democrats and divided congressional Republicans.

Some more background: The move could set a risky precedent as Democrats target a sitting member of the opposing party in Congress over views expressed prior to her serving as an elected official  — one that has the potential to someday be used against the party by Republicans.

Outrage over Greene, who has in the past embraced the dangerous and debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, grew more intense in Congress in the wake of a report from CNN's KFile that she repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.

The Georgia Republican has also faced backlash over recently resurfaced comments about the 2018 Parkland school shooting.

CNN's Clare Foran contributed reporting to this post. 

12:00 p.m. ET, February 4, 2021

Here's where things stand in Congress on Covid-19 relief — and what comes next

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

At some point in the next 24 hours — after a long process of voting on a series of amendments — the Senate will pass their budget resolution to unlock their ability to write and pass a major Covid-relief bill with just 51 votes.

A reminder: The budget resolution is not the Covid-19 relief bill. It is just the shell that gives committees the ability to go on and write the Covid-19 relief bill and eventually pass it with just a simple majority.

First, however, lawmakers will have to get through what is known as a budget vote-a-rama.

Usually in the legislative process, lawmakers can use a series of procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on amendments. In a budget resolution, you can't do that. You cannot hold a final vote on a budget resolution until all the amendments have been "disposed of" or in simpler terms "voted on."

The practice involves votes on a series of amendments that can stretch for hours (and hours). There's a lot of snacks and (sometimes refreshments of the alcoholic variety) involved in helping members get through the evening.

None of these amendments are binding. None of the amendments change the underlying bill. But, the amendment votes serve as a way for each party to force the other side on the record about controversial issues. This is where future political ads are born.

What time does this vote-a-rama get started? Multiple aides tell CNN that the expectation is to begin the vote-a-rama around 2:30 p.m. ET. That's earlier than some past ones, but there is no prediction of when this will end. It keeps going until members get tired and leadership strikes a deal to end the whole thing.

What does each vote mean? The votes themselves don't have any effect on the budget resolution. They are non-binding, which means they can't change the bill and become law. These are votes of principles. And each party uses them to force the other side to take hard votes.

10:51 a.m. ET, February 4, 2021

White House will leave any intelligence briefing requests from Trump to intel community

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

The White House said the intelligence community would review any incoming request for an intelligence briefing from former President Donald Trump, and that in general, requests from a former President are supported by officials. 

“The intelligence community supports requests for intelligence briefings by former presidents and will review any incoming requests, as they always have,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told CNN.

A senior administration official told CNN the former president has not submitted any requests to this point. The official also noted that there are many ways intelligence can be presented, something the intelligence community would formulate should any request come in.