With the House discussing the expulsion of a member whose behavior has not spurred an Office of Congressional Ethics or Ethics Committee investigation, the move might set off a series of debates about member behavior that does not technically violate chamber rules or is not illegal.
California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez on Friday introduced a privileged resolution to remove Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from the chamber for past social media behavior in which she expressed support for assassinating Speaker Nancy Pelosi and aligned herself with baseless conspiracy theories. This comes the same week House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., introduced an unsuccessful resolution to remove Rep. Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee for the California Democrat’s ties to a suspected Chinese intelligence operative.
“I believe some of my Republican colleagues — and one in particular — wish harm upon this legislative body. I’m not saying this for shock value,” Gomez said in prepared remarks on the House floor. “It’s the conclusion I drew after a member of Congress advocated violence against our peers, the Speaker, and our government. It’s what I believed after this chamber was turned into a crime scene just 10 weeks ago.”
A Gomez aide said the congressman reserves the right to bring up the privileged resolution at any point during this session and will work with Democratic leaders on a time to do so. Pelosi told reporters Friday that the Gomez resolution is not the official position of House Democratic leadership.
Neither the Gomez resolution (which requires a two-thirds majority for adoption) nor the one offered from McCarthy had a chance of prevailing.
But the chamber will still have to deal with them and their aftereffects.
“Now, I do not take this action lightly or for political reasons,” McCarthy said on the floor Thursday, noting that he and Pelosi both received a classified FBI briefing regarding Swalwell that he called “deeply disturbing.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said McCarthy's action was politically motivated to distract from the Republican Conference’s unwillingness to strip Greene of both her committee assignments. The full House voted on Feb. 4 to remove Greene from her seats on the Education and Labor and Budget committees by a bipartisan vote of 230-199.
"This vote today was a frivolous, political exercise meant to attack the reputation of an outstanding Member of Congress and distract from House Republicans’ failure to hold their own Members accountable for inappropriate and outrageous actions," the Maryland Democrat said Thursday after the House tabled McCarthy’s resolution, 218-200.
Since Greene was removed from her committees, she has offered on the floor motions to adjourn, a move that requires members to vote so they can remain in session. Greene recently led an effort to ask for roll call votes on 13 noncontroversial bills brought up under suspension of the rules, an expedited process for floor consideration. One of them was a measure to award the Capitol Police and the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Congressional Gold Medals for their heroism on Jan. 6.
“What the Democrats did to Marjorie is just wrong,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of her losing her committee seats.
Bills considered under suspension are bipartisan and many pass through a voice vote to get them through the House quickly. But Democrats have also called for recorded votes to show their objection to members who voted against certifying the presidential election results of Joe Biden’s win.
Illinois Democrat Sean Casten, for instance, asked in February for a roll call vote on a bill sponsored by Mississippi Republican Trent Kelly to rename a post office in the Magnolia State. Kelly had voted against certifying Biden’s win.
The pattern of punch and counter punch has become more pronounced over the last month.
As it became clear Democratic leaders would move to take Greene off her assigned panels, McCarthy took aim at Swalwell. On Feb. 3 — the day before the chamber voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments through a bipartisan vote —McCarthy questioned whether Swalwell should remain on his committees and if Democrats would hold themselves to the same standard as they are holding Greene to.
“I don’t see that as a bickering or partisan thing or, we’re getting you back because what you did to us,” said Washington Republican Dan Newhouse about the effort to remove Swalwell.
Rep. French Hill, an Arkansas Republican, said the stage is set for more to come.
"If we’re gonna be in this engagement where one party is attempting to express their view about another member’s and the opposition party’s service on the committee,” Hill said. “If we’re going to start that, then let’s give the American public an opportunity to see both sides of that debate.”
Norman J. Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said expulsion resolutions should go through the Ethics Committee so it can do a full investigation into the matter and be fairly adjudicated. He added that when Greene was stripped of her committees, it would have been better to have the bipartisan Ethics panel investigate.
The resolution to strip Greene of her committees did not go through the Ethics Committee. Instead, it went through the Rules Committee, which approved a special rule to send it to the floor. The rule was structured to allow even debate between Ethics Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and ranking member Jackie Walorski, R-Ind. It was not sent to the floor as a privileged resolution.
“I do think that it’s an attempt to inject a false equivalence or to at least send up a warning shot: Don’t go after ours,” Ornstein said of the measure to remove Swalwell from his assignment on the Intelligence panel.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.