Analysis: Fights over Greene and Cheney are bad news for a weakened McCarthy, less of a problem for McConnell.


Democrats hurtled toward a Thursday vote on stripping committee assignments from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, over comments and social media posts promoting QAnon conspiracies and anti-Jewish tropes.

It comes a day after Republicans rejected attempts to oust Representative Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, from a top leadership post. She is one of the few in her party to risk political peril by rebuking former President Donald J. Trump and voting to impeach him.

Both sagas have far-reaching implications for power players in post-Trump Washington. Here are four takeaways.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has been seriously weakened. Seldom in recent congressional history has a leader had to scramble so desperately just to get through a day. And the ugly, humbling fights over Ms. Greene and Ms. Cheney proved that the House Republican leader from California remains trapped in Mr. Trump’s shadow.

Since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Mr. McCarthy has sent out mixed messages on how he planned to lead: First, he said that Mr. Trump “bears responsibility,” for the attack, then he visited Mar-a-Lago to make nice after the former president grumbled.

He was equally equivocal with members of his fractious caucus, expressing disapproval of Ms. Greene — but stopping well short of threatening to strip her of all committee assignments, a step he was willing to take a year ago against Representative Steve King of Iowa over remarks on white supremacy.

Mr. McCarthy got a mild reprieve when Ms. Greene showed some contrition in a private meeting Wednesday. But in seeking short-term safety to appease the party’s right, Mr. McCarthy is courting peril in the 2020 midterm elections — and the image of Republicans offering a standing ovation to a woman who suggested political opponents be executed will linger, to say the least.

It is not nearly so bad for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Senate minority leader, facing a grim second Trump impeachment trial next week, truly deplores Ms. Greene and made a point of describing her (albeit not by name) as a “cancer” in the party.

But the current crisis is not without potential opportunity for Mr. McConnell, a far more deft political operator than Mr. McCarthy. Bashing Ms. Greene gives besieged Senate Republicans a safe way to vent their anger over the Capitol riot and disapproval of Mr. Trump’s political influence — even if they don’t vote to punish him directly in the trial.

Drawing that line is vital for Mr. McConnell, whose unwillingness to publicly reject Mr. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election will most likely hound him in the history books.

It’s a mixed bag for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Mr. McCarthy’s unwillingness to punish his own member forced the Democratic speaker to impose her own penalties — a step she had hoped to avoid to evade accusations that she was motivated by politics.

The move also provided an opening for several pro-Trump Republicans to counterattack by calling for Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat who has long been a Trump target, to be stripped of her committee posts.

Still, Democrats see mostly political upsides and plan to make Ms. Greene and QAnon a centerpiece of their 2022 strategy.

Ms. Greene won’t be silenced, and neither will Ms. Cheney. It is tempting to attribute Ms. Greene’s rapid rise to social media. But there is a long history of new House members and senators — including Huey Long — using new forms of communication (handbills and paid airtime on radio stations in his case) to bypass and challenge their party’s leadership.

Yet no member in memory has made the kind of violent, inflammatory or bizarre pronouncements made by the Georgia freshman.

Her apology on Wednesday indicates she values her committee assignments. But it is just as likely that she values her space in the spotlight — and it remains to be seen if Ms. Greene is serious about abandoning her old opinions, or her instant fame.

Ms. Cheney is holding fast to her principles, however, countering Mr. McCarthy’s claim that Wednesday proved the party was unified and fit to move forward.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *