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Where things stand
The House voted last night to strip Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, a move without precedent in the modern Congress that leaves the right-wing congresswoman without much tangible influence in the chamber.
The House voted 230 to 199, over the opposition of all but 11 Republican members, to remove Greene from the Education and Budget Committees in response to her history of support for bigoted conspiracy theories and encouragement of political violence.
While party caucuses have from time to time stripped their own members of their committee assignments as a disciplinary measure, yesterday’s vote was the first time in modern U.S. politics that the majority party had used a chamber-wide vote to depose a member from the minority.
In an impassioned address on the House floor before the vote, Greene called her previous comments “words of the past” that “do not represent me” and said she should be given an opportunity to learn from her mistakes. “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true, and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret,” she said.
But Democrats were unimpressed, and some pointed out in speeches of their own that Greene had not apologized at any point in her eight-minute address. The Democratic caucus voted unanimously to remove Greene from her posts, arguing in particular that she did not belong on the Education Committee given her history of claiming that the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was a hoax.
President Biden declared yesterday that he would end the United States’ involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which he called a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,” bowing to a longtime demand of human rights advocates.
In a speech at the State Department, he heralded the start of a new era in American leadership abroad. He committed the United States to a central role in world affairs going forward and pledged to work closely with allies on issues like fighting the coronavirus pandemic and mitigating climate change’s effects.
He committed to standing up strongly to Russia and China, saying that he would use “a manner very different from my predecessor” in particular when dealing with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.
Biden announced that he was putting a hold on former President Donald Trump’s planned troop redeployments from Germany, a move that had signaled a retreat from the United States’ commitment to its traditional alliances.
“America is back,” he said. “Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”
Absent stronger federal regulation of social media, could the pathto reining in disinformation run through the civil courts? If a $2.7 billion lawsuit is any deterrent, then maybe so.
The election technology company Smartmatic filed suit yesterday against Fox News, some of the network’s hosts, and two of Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani, for leading what the filing called a “disinformation campaign” against the company.
The Smartmatic lawsuit follows defamation suits that Dominion Voting Systems brought last month against Giuliani and Powell. Both of those suits seek more than $1 billion in damages and stem from baseless arguments that Trump and his allies pushed, suggesting that the company had been involved in a plot to rig its voting machines during the 2020 election.
Biden isn’t the only Democrat pushing for aggressive action on a range of issues. Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, is putting pressure on the president to embrace a plan that would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for all borrowers.
Flanked by liberal members of Congress including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Ayanna Pressley, Schumer spoke in support of a nonbinding resolution that calls upon Biden to use his executive powers to cancel about 80 percent of the student loan debt that has been run up by some 36 million borrowers.
The resolution faces a steep climb in the Senate, where it would need significant Republican support to clear a 60-vote threshold. It would also have no legal effect if passed, but it would represent a major assertion of the progressive priorities of Democratic leaders in Congress.
The resolution calls for cancellation for all borrowers, whereas a previous Democratic proposal limited the program to people earning under $125,000 per year.
Biden has endorsed a smaller but similar plan that would cancel only up to $10,000 in debt. “We are not going to let up until we accomplish it, until $50,000 of debt is forgiven for every student in the country,” Schumer said yesterday.
Trump’s legal team yesterday shot down a request for him to testify under oath during his impeachment trial in the Senate, which begins oral arguments next week.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and the leader of the House managers who will prosecute the impeachment case, had asked Trump to answer questions under oath about his actions around the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
In his letter to Trump, Raskin wrote that the former president’s legal team had disputed a number of “factual allegations” in a court filing this week, and he invited Trump to clear up the problems in live testimony.
Raskin wrote that if Trump refused to testify, his refusal might be used as evidence to support “a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021.”
In declining the request, Trump’s lawyers sought to paint it as a “public relations stunt.” In their reply to Raskin, they wrote: “Your letter only confirms what is known to everyone: You cannot prove your allegations against the 45th president of the United States, who is now a private citizen.”
Photo of the day
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene before the House vote yesterday.
Virginia, shifting left fast, moves to abolish the death penalty.
With a big vote expected today in Virginia’s House of Delegates, lawmakers are poised to make the state the first in the South to abolish the death penalty.
Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene?
Updated Feb. 4, 2021
Marjorie Taylor Greene won the race for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District after incumbent Tom Graves announced he would not run for re-election.
She is a right-wing Republican and the first QAnon supporter to win national political office.
Ms. Greene has posted numerous troubling social media posts and videos rooted in Islamophobia and racism. Some of them endorse violent behavior, including executing Democratic leaders, and spread an array of conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were hoaxes.
Many of these posts appeared before she was elected. In 2018, she made a Facebook post suggesting that a devastating wildfire in California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats.
Some Republicans have condemned her behavior, but most others are staying quiet.
The House voted to strip Ms. Greene of her committee assignments for endorsing these false claims, bigoted language and violent behavior.