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The U.S. House of Representatives spent hours on Thursday in impassioned debate over the future of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her past statements espousing support for conspiracy theories and violence against lawmakers. The issue has widened an already serious partisan divide and fractures within the Republican Party. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports.
The U.S. House of Representatives has spent hours in impassioned debate today, not on policy, but a politician. The issue has widened an already serious partisan divide and opened new fault lines within Republican ranks.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports.
Inside the House of Representatives…
The indecent behavior of this member is a threat to Congress and our government.
… a reckoning over one of its own.
The gentlewoman from Georgia.
Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene and inflammatory statements she has made in the past, and today said she regrets.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:
These were words of the past, and these things do not represent me.
She's talking about comments like these, supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory:
Marjorie Taylor Greene:
So, that was proof right there that there's possible satanic worship.
And the idea that mass school shootings and their victims are frauds.
He has nothing to say guys because he's paid to do this. He's a coward.
But, today, a different Marjorie Taylor Greene.
When I started finding misinformation, lies, things that were not true in these QAnon posts, I stopped believing it. School shootings are absolutely real.
But Democrats said she can't be trusted, that her past quotes and violent threats toward other lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, show she is dangerous to Congress itself.
Rep. Jim McGovern:
I think giving congresswoman Greene a megaphone on a standing committee would be a cancer on this entire Congress.
None of us get to decide who the voters send to Congress, but, as members of this body, it is our job to set the standard for the conduct of those who serve here, especially when they cross the line into violence.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has rejected the idea of banning Greene from committees, but, today, House Democrats moved forward on an unprecedented vote to do just that.
In turn, Pelosi said the Republican Party refuses to confront extremism.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
I remain profoundly concerned about House Republicans' leadership acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists.
But Republicans charge that Democrats are the dangerous ones, misusing power to punish a lawmaker for her words.
Rep. Tom Cole:
The action the majority is proposing to take today is not only premature, but, in fact, unprecedented in the history of the House.
Madam Speaker, what the majority is really proposing to do today is establish a new standard for punishing members for conduct before they ever became a member.
This after Republicans fractured over their own leadership, with Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney surviving an attempt last night to oust her as the number three Republican in the House, after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.
In a secret ballot, a large majority of Republicans, 145, supported her. But 61 did not. Helping lead the charge against her, Montana freshman Matt Rosendale, who said the issue wasn't Cheney's vote, but that she promoted it while in leadership.
Rep. Matt Rosendale:
Quite frankly, she ignored all of us at a critical time for the conference for her own personal political gain.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy:
The number one thing that happened in the conference was unity.
After last night's meeting, Cheney and party leaders vowed to move on.
Rep. Liz Cheney:
It was a very resounding acknowledgement that we need to go forward together.
But this was about more than Greene or Cheney. It was about who is leading the country, and Republicans in particular.
This is not normal.
Sam Rosenfeld, a political science professor at Colgate University and author of the book "Polarizers," says it is a polarized time, and that Republicans have benefited from fringe beliefs and misinformation.
They're not just capitalizing on it, but they're a kind of part of it. But I just don't think there's any other example, other than Marjorie Taylor Greene that I know of, of someone who just produces the poison itself.
So, where does this leave the Republican Party?
Utah Congressman John Curtis:
Rep. John Curtis:
And we have not learned how to separate what we loved about the policies of President Trump and what we don't like about the behavior. And I think that's just going to take us a little time to work through as a party.
Now Republicans face the challenge of how to move forward without Mr. Trump in the White House, but with voters fiercely loyal to him.
Intraparty and intra-conservative fights are just very frequently carried out and always have been in terms of accusations of insufficient purity, insufficient fighting spirit, et cetera. Compromise is a dirty word. You're really seeing the fruits of that problem.
One month into the new Congress, and these may be the seeds for what happens over the next two years. Both Greene and the Democratic Party are fund-raising over her comments and what it means for Republicans.
And Lisa joins me now.
So, Lisa, you are reporting mainly on the House, but it's been busy, as you know, today in the Senate as well. They are debating a budget. They're looking at how to proceed on COVID relief.
And I understand you have received a lot of questions from viewers on all of this.
Right. The process is called budget reconciliation.
We asked on Twitter if there were questions. There were plenty of questions. And we want to explain the process of looking at questions, first this one from Marcy.
"Why can't the reconciliation process be subject to the filibuster?"
Now, this is the biggest important part of why we are in budget reconciliation at all, is because it only requires a majority vote. So, let me explain this, showing you a few things.
First, the budget reconciliation process, again, requires just a majority vote, cannot be filibustered. Why is that? Well, it was created in the '70s to try and promote fiscal responsibility, to promote budgets and responsible budgets. And it requires that only material, only resolutions that would affect the budget, either revenue or expenses, spending, those are the only things that are applicable for the budget reconciliation process.
Because of this, it generally can only be used once a year, because there is usually one budget a year. However, this time, there is an exception. Congress can pass a budget reconciliation package in these first hundred days of the Biden presidency and still do another later in the year.
Basically, this is a way around the filibuster. It wasn't intended for that initially, but that is how it has been used.
Lisa Desjardins, nobody explains it better than you do. Thank you.
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Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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