Greene vs Green: silencing sparks round of GOP infighting

Comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) this week again presented a challenge to GOP leadership after she was silenced Wednesday following an exchange with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas whom she accused of being a liar.

Greene’s comments pushed Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee to move to take down her words, a ruling that blocks a lawmaker from being recognized to speak during a hearing. 

Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) agreed the speech violated House rules by attacking someone’s character, appearing not to immediately realize a move to “take down” her comments versus striking them from the record would terminate her right to speak again. 

Greene on Thursday called the decision unfair, particularly because a series of Republican lawmakers had spent their time accusing Mayorkas of being dishonest before Congress. It’s a claim Democrats have dismissed as a weak argument the GOP is exploring ahead of a possible impeachment of the secretary.

“I think it's not fair. Especially our Chair, Mark Green, and others, were also accusing Secretary Mayorkas of lying, calling him a liar. Congressman Green also called him incompetent. These are all impugning his character also, which is what they claimed were the rules,” she said in response to a question from The Hill. 

“I think silencing me was extremely unfair. And I think it showed weakness from Republicans on the committee.”

Two separate comments from Greene on Wednesday brought proceedings to a roughly 20-minute halt. 

She first accused Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) of cheating on his wife with a Chinese spy — a charge the California lawmaker vehemently denied and a comment Democrats also challenged, which Republicans on the panel shot down in a party-line vote.

Minutes later, she called Mayorkas a liar while accusing the secretary of failing to work to stem the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

“You’re a liar. You are letting this go on, and the numbers prove it,” she said.

Green, speaking with The Hill on Wednesday after the hearing, said while other members made similar comments about Mayorkas, they were more carefully tailored.

“Well, you just attack the problem. You don't attack the person. Note that I said Mayorkas lied to Congress. I didn't say Mayorkas was a liar. No one objected to me saying, ‘You gave false testimony.’ Or, ‘You lied,’ but they would object if I said, ‘You're a liar.’ Because that's attacking the person as opposed to what he did or said. So that's the subtle difference,” he said.

The chair ended Wednesday’s hearing with a call for greater civility, saying, “We do need to dial the rhetoric down in the country and apparently in the committee.”

On Thursday morning, the Georgia lawmaker said she planned to speak to Green on the floor — a conversation she later said changed little.

“He basically said that we have two different styles. And so we have a disagreement still about what took place yesterday. But you know, I'm still new to committees,” Greene said, nodding to her last session in Congress where she was removed from her posts. 

“So I'll make sure that I'm making sure I'm following the rules, which I do believe is important, but at the same time, I'm still going to keep pushing.”

According to reporting from CNN, sources close to Green said he privately reprimanded Greene and would contemplate asking Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to remove her from the panel if something similar happened again.

But Greene dismissed that possibility, noting that she had spoken with McCarthy. 

“Speaker McCarthy's never going to let that happen,” she said, adding that “he agreed with me.” 

Reached for comment Thursday, a spokeswoman for the committee said, “Chairman Green looks forward to Congresswoman Greene’s full participation in the plethora of upcoming committee activities to get answers for the American people on the Mayorkas border crisis.”

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats on Thursday cast the episode as another example of Republicans elevating the Trump-aligned MAGA (Make America Great Again) wing of the party.

"The extreme MAGA Republicans are showing the American people who they are. They're not even trying to hide their extremism. And Exhibit A is Marjorie Taylor Greene. She is totally out of control. But they don't care. The leadership apparently supports Marjorie Taylor Greene,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference.

“The rank-and-file Republicans apparently support Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's allowed to lie. She's allowed to debase the institution.”

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who served as a staffer to Democrats during former President Trump’s first impeachment, said Republicans have done little to demonstrate that Mayorkas lied under oath — the underlying charge of their questions.

GOP lawmakers have for months asked Mayorkas whether he has operational control of the border, looking for any inconsistencies in his statements. They point to a 2006 law that defines operational control as the prevention of all unlawful entries, a standard of perfection that has never been met.

“They seem to be trying to create some sort of record of him making false statements under oath, but their own statements undermine those accusations, and there's no basis for them to proceed with impeachment,” he told The Hill Wednesday.

“I frankly was very disappointed with the tenor of the entire hearing. And the ad hominem insults and attacks on the secretary is just a shameful demonstration of a lack of respect for a cabinet official.”

Heated GOP grilling of Mayorkas leads to pledge to ‘dial the rhetoric down’

Republicans gave a preview Wednesday of a still materializing impeachment case against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, zeroing in on a 2006 law that requires a standard of perfection at the border.

But what started as a fiery hearing filled with attacks on Mayorkas ended with promises to tone down the rhetoric and move towards civility in the House Homeland Security Committee — a panel with numerous members who have pledged to remove the secretary from office.

The GOP on Wednesday repeatedly referenced the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a law that defines operational control as achieved when there is not a single unlawful entry of either migrants or drugs at the border. 

Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and other Republicans played numerous clips of Mayorkas previously answering questions about whether he has maintained operational control of the border — a tactic that comes after Green reportedly told donors at a fundraiser to “get the popcorn” ready ahead of the hearing.

Green rattled off a series of policies rolled out under the Biden administration, including the rescission of some Trump-era policies, though the current administration has alienated immigration advocates by retaining others. 

“You have not secured our borders, Mr. Secretary, and I believe you've done so intentionally. There is no other explanation for the systematic dismantling and transformation of our border,” he said. 

Several Republicans on the committee, including Green, leveled a series of accusations against Mayorkas, using their full five minutes for speeches, without asking questions of Mayorkas or allowing him to respond.

“I have no interest in asking the secretary any questions because he obfuscates and lies,” said  Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) after arguing Mayorkas had “failed your country.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the committee, defended Mayorkas, pointing to reporting from The New York Times about Green’s comments to donors.

“I was dismayed to see that speaking to a group of campaign contributors last week about today's hearing the Chairman said, and I quote, ‘Get the popcorn. It's going to be fun.’ I think that tells Americans all they need to know about the Republican agenda here,” Thompson said.

“They don't want solutions to homeland security challenges. They want to make a headline or photo opp. They want a political wedge issue and something to talk to their deep-pocketed donors about more than they want to work together to get things done.”

Green later said the article misquoted him. He did not specify how but detailed he has no power to impeach Mayorkas, noting such a move would fall to the House Judiciary Committee and that his role is limited to oversight.

Republicans used much of the hearing to dissect Mayorkas’s previous statements on operational control of the border.

Mayorkas has repeatedly maintained he has control of the border, but the GOP has seized on prior comments from Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz who answered “no” when asked if the department was meeting the high standard set under the Secure Fence Act.

It was a line Green said “told the truth” about the situation at the border.

Mayorkas on Wednesday said he was previously cut off by lawmakers from giving nuance to earlier answers, arguing the law leaves much discretion to the secretary in determining how to manage the border while the standard itself has never been met.

“The Secure Fence Act provides that operational control means that not a single individual crosses the border illegally. And it's for that reason that prior secretaries and myself have said that under that definition, no administration has had operational control,” Mayorkas said.

“As I have testified under oath multiple times, we use a lens of reasonableness in defining operational control. Are we maximizing the resources that we have to deliver the most effective results? And under that definition, we are doing so very much to gain operational control.”

Democrats took turns defending Mayorkas.

Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) accused Republicans of having “such short memories … with respect to the situation at the Southern border.” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) rattled off a list of Trump-era policies, including family separation, prompting Mayorkas to say they not only failed to achieve operational control but “disobeyed our values as a country.”

Thompson turned to the archives, citing comments from GOP lawmakers from when the Secure Fence Act was first passed, citing concerns over the standard it set, including Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a member of the committee who worked on the legislation.

“When you put this number as a metric in the definition of operational control, you make it impossible to achieve operational control. Perfection shouldn't be the enemy of the good,” McCaul said at the time, according to a portion of the transcript read aloud by Thompson.

Republicans, however, took issue with Mayorakas’s explanation, arguing the secretary has no right to interpret the laws passed by Congress.

“Congress set an objective in law. You haven't pursued it,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.).  “Who are you to displace the legal definition of operational control by this Congress in favor of pursuing one of your own invention?”

Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), who played a central role in the impeachment of then-President Trump, later pounced on Bishop’s phrasing.

“I have a little experience with impeachment and I can tell you, as well as everybody else, that there is no grounds for impeachment based on a policy dispute. And there is absolutely nothing that I've seen here today that amounts to a false statement under oath,” he said.

“In fact, Mr. Bishop, my colleague, in referencing operational control and that standard, stated himself that it is an objective. It is the objective of the Department of Homeland Security to have operational control and, as you pointed out, that is to allow no unlawful entry into this country. That, of course, is an impossible standard.”

Other Republicans sought to hold Mayorkas accountable with other methods.

One lawmaker brought a series of charts with multiple questions. Two others brought guests to the hearing, including parents of children that had died of a fentanyl overdose and the family of victims who died after a man carrying migrants crashed into their car while seeking to evade police in a high-speed chase. 

The committee’s proceedings came to an almost 20-minute standstill following comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) accusing Mayorkas of lying.

Green agreed to a motion from Democrats to take down her words, ultimately resulting in the loss of her speaking privileges during the hearing.

It was a complex turn of events given that many Republicans at prior points in the hearing accused Mayorkas of being dishonest before Congress, though none, as Greene did, labeled him a liar.

Still, the hearing ended on a tone much different from how it started, with Thompson and Green both speaking to the need to maintain decorum during proceedings.

Thompson said the two men had "sidebarred" about the language used, noting other nations keep tabs on Congressional proceedings — “our adversaries look at us,” he warned.

“You and I pledge that going forward, we'll make every effort to get back to the civility that this committee has been known for,” Thompson said.

Green echoed that in his own closing remarks.

“I agree with the former chairman, now ranking member, that we disagree on a lot of policies. We really do. And we don't have to despise someone because they disagree with us. We don't have to disparage someone because they disagree with us,” Green said. 

“And we do need to dial the rhetoric down in the country and apparently in the committee.”