Marjorie Taylor Greene has been at the center of substantial controversy since the beginning of her term in the United States Congress. In February, eleven Republicans joined all House Democrats to vote to strip Rep. Greene of all of her committee assignments. According to Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 (§1.5.2.) of the U.S. Constitution, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” In the history of the House of Representatives, expulsion, censure and reprimand have been used to punish members. While Rep. Greene has made numerous controversial remarks in the past including calling 9/11 a hoax, accusing former President Obama of secretly being Muslim, and blaming the Clintons for President Kennedy’s assasination, these actions were mainly done before her time in Congress, are protected under the First Amendment, and are far less threatening than the actions of expelled members of Congress. Based on her actions in the past five months, Rep. Greene should not be expelled from Congress, but instead be censured and not be allowed to serve on any committees during the remainder of this term.
While Rep. Greene’s actions are unacceptable, these statements were not made while she has served as a member of Congress. Expulsion is a measure used to punish members of Congress for their actions while serving as a member of Congress. Expulsion of House members on the basis of past actions not directly related to their time in Congress creates a precedent that members may not be able to redeem themselves and move on from their mistakes. Historically, individuals have only been expelled for high crimes (such as treason and bribery) against the United States. For Rep. Greene to be expelled having not been convicted or guilty of a high crime would be disproportionate when compared to the history of expulsion in Congress.
Calls for expelling Rep. Greene from Congress on the basis of the lies she peddled regarding the 2020 election are beyond precedent that has been set in the House. Rep. Greene joined 146 other members of Congress in voting against the certification of the Electoral College votes on January 6th. If Rep. Greene is to be expelled for peddling election lies, then the 146 colleagues of hers who voted to overturn the election result should also be expelled. However, this would be a dangerous move, further contributing to hyperpartisanship in Congress and to the consistently poor reputation of Congress.
In regards to harassing a fellow member of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Greene committed an act that was far less threatening than what some members of Congress have done in the past. Rep. Greene did not engage in any physical altercation with Rep. Ocasio-Cortex or any other colleagues of hers. In 1856, a vote to expel Representative Preston Brooks for caning a fellow Congressman, Senator Charles Sumner, failed. Rep. Brooks subsequently resigned and was later re-elected by his constituents in a special election later that year. While Rep. Brooks committed a violent act against another member of Congress, it was ultimately his constituents who were able to pass judgement on his actions. Rep. Greene has not directly threatened the life of any of her colleagues in the way Rep. Brooks injured Senator Sumner. Expelling Rep. Greene for her non-violent actions would break with the precedent set in the past two centuries.
In the history of the House of Representatives, no member has been expelled for controversial remarks, especially on partisan lines. Taking such a measure against Rep. Greene would go beyond what has been the precedent in the House. However, removing the ability of Rep. Greene to serve on a committee demonstrates that the House will not tolerate members who threaten civil discourse in the halls of government. A censure, in addition to stripping Rep. Greene of her committee assignments, will further demonstrate the House’s disapproval of her actions. Any further actions against Rep. Greene threatens to set a precedent that disagreement is grounds for expulsion from the democratically elected body. On November 8, 2022, voters in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District will have the opportunity to decide the fate of Rep. Greene. Just as it has always been in our democracy, the voters, not partisan members, should have the final say in whether Rep. Greene’s behavior should be tolerated in Congress.