On Wednesday, 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.
On a parallel track, Republicans met to consider ousting Representative Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, from a top leadership post, 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. The House Republican leader from California had hoped, like so many before him, to ride Mr. Trump’s popularity without being trampled by his excesses. If nothing, the ugly, humbling fights over Ms. Greene and Ms. Cheney proved that Mr. McCarthy — like much of his party — remains trapped under Mr. Trump’s shadow.
Since the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Mr. McCarthy has sent out mixed messages: first saying that Mr. Trump “bears responsibility,” for the attack, then visiting Mar-a-Lago to reconcile after the former president complained.
The same holds true with his handling of members of his caucus. In a private meeting Tuesday, he asked Ms. Greene to publicly express remorse — but stopped 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.
In seeking short-term safety to avoid a fight with the party’s right, Mr. McCarthy courts perils in the 2020 midterms — and has signaled that Mr. Trump still runs his show.
It is not quite so bad for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Senate minority leader, facing a grim second Trump impeachment trial, 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 the canny Mr. McConnell. 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 spawn — even if they don’t vote to punish him directly in the trial.
Drawing that line is vital for Mr. McConnell, who chose not to push back publicly on Mr. Trump’s dangerous and false claims of a stolen election in the days following the president’s defeat, when his intervention might have made a real difference.
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 charges 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, no matter what happens. It is tempting to attribute Ms. Greene’s rapid rise to the advent of viral 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.
And while she values her committee assignments, she appears to value her space in the spotlight, shone upon her by Mr. Trump, even more. This week, in a fund-raising email featuring Mr. Trump’s picture, she pledged that “the Democrat mob can’t cancel me.”
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