Miami Republicans vote to kick Parkland conspiracy theorist off House committees

All three of South Florida’s House Republicans voted Thursday to remove Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — who previously questioned whether the 2018 Parkland school shooting actually happened and filmed herself harassing Parkland survivors who pushed for gun control — from the House committee that oversees education policy, breaking with their party and standing with a group of Parkland victims’ families who urged them to vote yes.

The votes by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar came as a surprise at the last moment during a 30-minute vote late Thursday. They bucked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, part of a group of Republicans who waited till the end to cast their “yes” votes for a resolution authored by Broward Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Voting against a member of your own party is never easy, but everyone in Congress must be held to the same high standard,” Salazar said in a statement shortly after the vote. “I had to hold Marjorie Taylor Greene accountable for her denial of the Parkland massacre, the Flight 77 crash and accusing a Jewish family of starting the California wildfires. From now on, I will hold every Democrat to this new standard that they have created.”

Diaz-Balart said he voted to remove Greene from her committees because her comments were “unacceptable.”

In total, 11 Republicans joined 219 Democrats to kick Greene off of her committees.

Wasserman Schultz said she was “especially proud” of her South Florida GOP colleagues who voted to remove Greene.

“Today, members from both sides of the aisle voted to uphold our oath to protect this institution and rebuke anyone who would use lies, conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric to harm or intimidate those who serve in it,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I’m especially proud that my three South Florida Republican colleagues cast this difficult vote of conscience to remove Taylor Greene from her House committees.”

Parkland and its aftermath remains an important issue for Miami lawmakers from both parties. A day before the vote to kick Greene off the committees, Diaz-Balart released a bill to make permanent an online school safety clearinghouse with the support of Stand With Parkland, a group representing families who lost loved ones in the 2018 school shooting.

Stand With Parkland — which represents a majority of the 17 victims’ families — said Greene’s remarks had caused “great pain,” and they urged McCarthy to kick Greene off the House education and labor committee. But McCarthy declined to do so. The majority of House Republicans voted to uphold Greene’s committee assignments.

Wasserman Schultz’s resolution, which required a simple majority, passed on a 230-199 vote. Wasserman Schultz pursued the resolution after Republicans declined to discipline Greene themselves.

“Congresswoman Greene advocated for the execution of the leader of this House,” Wasserman Schultz said on the House floor. “She encouraged violence against law enforcement and has a long record of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments. She spread cruel conspiracy theories even claiming the horrific mass school shootings in Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged and even stalked the survivors of one of those tragedies, calling him a coward.”

Ahead of the vote, Greene said “school shootings are real” while wearing a mask with the phrase “free speech” and distanced herself from many of her incendiary social media posts, noting that she made them before running for Congress. But she did not apologize for her remarks and left the chamber when Democrats offered their rebuttal.

The resolution capped a frenetic week of debate around Greene’s future after videos of her harassing Parkland survivor and gun control advocate David Hogg in 2018 resurfaced, along with social media posts in which Greene encouraged the murder of top Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Greene has not apologized for her remarks and claims Democrats are trying to silence her — though in conversations with Parkland families this week, she acknowledged the 2018 mass shooting that resulted in 17 deaths was real.

“Representative Greene’s reluctance to recognize the tragic reality of school shootings until she spoke to parents who lost their children in the Parkland massacre demonstrates that she does not understand the continued threat to our nation’s schools or support measures to stop these threats,” Stand With Parkland wrote in a letter to McCarthy. “It is for this reason we ask that you remove Representative Greene from the Education and Labor Committee.”

But the majority of Republicans agreed with McCarthy, who painted any effort to remove Greene from committees as a “partisan power grab” ahead of the vote and urged Republicans to vote no.

“This partisan power grab is not only cynical, it’s hypocritical,” McCarthy said on the House floor.

Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland in Washington, were among the first Democrats to call for Greene’s removal from her committee assignments, after they were doled out by McCarthy last month at the start of the new Congress. It’s extremely rare for a member to get booted from a committee, though McCarthy removed former Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, from his committees in 2019 after King repeatedly expressed support for white supremacy.

Every South Florida House Democrat — Wasserman Schultz and Deutch, plus Reps. Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings — also voted to remove Greene from her committees. The four lawmakers also want Greene expelled from Congress entirely, though that effort will need two-thirds support, making passage virtually impossible.

“If it weren’t for the Facebook posts and comments I liked from 2018, I wouldn’t be here today,” Greene said on the House floor. “I also want to tell you 9/11 absolutely happened.”

At the end of her speech, Greene said the “media is just as guilty as QAnon” as she refused to apologize for her remarks.

Before the vote, Gimenez and Diaz-Balart condemned Greene’s remarks but did not say if they wanted Greene removed from her committees. They did say they did not support expelling her from Congress. Salazar responded with “no comment” when asked this week about Greene’s remarks and efforts to strip her of power.

They all ended up distancing themselves from her.

Republicans argued that the process to remove Greene, which officially began on Monday, was unfair. Greene has vowed retaliation and said Republicans would remove Democrats from their committees if they regain the majority. Some Republicans have singled out Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar as a potential target to have her committees reassigned. Omar was criticized by Democrats and Republicans for making comments in 2019 that were considered anti-Semitic. She apologized for her remarks.

In his tweet explaining his vote Thursday night, Diaz-Balart named Omar and California Rep. Maxine Waters as other sitting members of Congress who he thinks should also be stripped of their committee assignments like Greene. Salazar also singled out Omar for criticism.

“If MTG is being removed from her committee positions for her past inappropriate comments, then these members should’ve received the same treatment,” Diaz-Balart tweeted. “I’ll continue to demand that Democratic leadership & the press stop the double standard & hold these members equally accountable.”

Greene told her Republican colleagues on Wednesday that she does not believe in QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims a secret group of pedophiles is plotting against former President Donald Trump — a move that drew a standing ovation from many Republicans in the meeting. But Greene attacked Democrats ahead of the vote and continues to solicit donations from supporters.

“It’s not just me they want to cancel,” Greene tweeted on Thursday. “They want to cancel every Republican. Don’t let the mob win.”

Republicans said it’s unprecedented for the House majority to determine the committee assignments of a member of the House minority, while Democrats argued they were forced to hold a vote after McCarthy refused to act.

“What should have happened is some remorse for the pain, the damage that she has caused, the violence that she has advocated,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But none of that happened and that is why she has forfeited the right to serve on committees in this House of Representatives.”

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