Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is being dragged into a new row set off by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as Democrats seek to tie the would-be GOP Speaker to the firebrand lawmaker’s remarks that Jan. 6 rioters would have been armed if she had been their organizer.
Greene has emerged as a key conservative ally to McCarthy as he seeks to win a floor vote to become the Speaker of the House when Republicans take over the majority in January.
That’s linked McCarthy, who in the fall gave Greene a prominent seat at a Pittsburgh event to lay out the policy goals of a new GOP majority, much more closely to one of the most conservative and controversial House allies of former President Trump.
Democrats on Monday wasted no time in tying McCarthy close to Greene after a midterm election that, while delivering a House majority to the GOP, saw the party as a whole underperform as various pro-Trump candidates faltered.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene just said if she organized January 6 ‘it would have been armed.’ This is who Kevin McCarthy wants to give power to if he becomes speaker of the House,” the Democratic National Committee wrote on Twitter.
“I simply think that Kevin McCarthy and the Republican conference need to decide which side of the insurrection they’re on,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Jan. 6 select committee, told The Hill. “The side of the officers and the Constitution, or the side of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump?”
Greene’s remarks came during a gala on Saturday for the New York Young Republicans Club, where she hit back at claims that she and former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon planned the Jan. 6, 2021, event.
“Then Jan. 6 happens and next thing you know I organized the whole thing, along with Steve Bannon here. And I want to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed,” Greene said.
“See that’s the whole joke, isn’t it? They say that whole thing was planned and I’m like, are you kidding me? A bunch of conservatives, Second Amendment supporters, went in the Capitol without guns, and they think that we organized that? I don’t think so,” she added.
The congresswoman tried to soften her remarks on Monday, arguing that they were “sarcasm.”
“The White House needs to learn how sarcasm works,” Greene said in response to criticism from the White House and others. “My comments were making fun of Joe Biden and the Democrats, who have continuously made me a political target since January 6.”
The controversy comes just weeks before McCarthy will go to the floor to try to pull together a majority vote of those lawmakers present to elect him Speaker.
McCarthy has struggled to shore up support among Republicans amid opposition from some conservatives.
Republicans will likely hold a narrow 222-212 majority at the start of the next Congress. Five Republicans have said or strongly signaled that they will not vote for McCarthy in January, leaving him little room for more defections.
Greene has been a consistent source of support for McCarthy, repeatedly saying in public that Republicans would be making a mistake if they do not support him in the floor vote.
The Georgia Republican came out in favor of McCarthy even before he won the GOP nomination for the post last month, arguing that any challenge to the California Republican would be a “bad strategy,” citing the razor-thin margin in the House.
That now complicates any effort by McCarthy to criticize or rein in Greene, while allowing Democrats to go on offense in linking the two together. It’s an approach they clearly think will help their party in the elections to come.
“Threatening violence against Congress and our democracy itself is unacceptable. After we removed Greene from her committees for violent threats against our colleagues, Kevin McCarthy promised to reward and empower her,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) wrote on Twitter Saturday.
The House voted to kick Greene off committees in February 2021 as a rebuke for the new congresswoman’s endorsement of conspiracy theories and violence against Democratic politicians. McCarthy has pledged to return those assignments to Greene.
The congresswoman told The New York Times Magazine for a profile published in October that in order for McCarthy to “please the base,” he would have to give her “a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” warning that if he does not, “they’re going to be very unhappy about it.”
“His support for MTG signals that the GOP welcomes violence,” Beyer added on Twitter.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates criticized Greene’s comments as “a slap in the face to the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police, the National Guard, and the families who lost loved ones as a result of the attack on the Capitol.”
“It goes against our fundamental values as a country for a Member of Congress to wish that the carnage of January 6th had been even worse, and to boast that she would have succeeded in an armed insurrection against the United States government,” he said on Monday morning.
In a separate tweet, Bates tied the remarks to McCarthy, juxtaposing Greene’s comments with McCarthy’s pledge to award the congresswoman her committee assignments.
“We’ve known for a long time that Marjorie Taylor Greene is the real power behind the new majority,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) told The Hill.
“They are trying to stay quiet until the leadership vote,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 select committee and a frequent critic of McCarthy, said of McCarthy and House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).
Via The Hill