Cliff Bentz

Rep. Cliff Bentz

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, voted on Thursday against removing controversial freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from all committee assignments.

Democrats sought to remove Greene from the House Education & Labor, and Budget committees, citing her history of advancing conspiracy theories, harassing a mass shooting victim, and advocating for the right-wing conspiracy theory group QAnon.

The vote, primarily along party lines, was 230-199, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes. 

“I find Representative Greene’s previous comments and actions deeply offensive and totally unacceptable,” said Bentz, the first-term congressman from Oregon's 2nd Congressional District. “However, she went to the House Floor to say she regrets her comments and actions.”

Bentz said Democrats should have gone to House Ethics Committee first.

“I cannot support an unprecedented vote by House Democrat Majority to strip the Congresswoman of her committee assignments.”

The House debate included a 10-minute address by  Greene, trying to reassure her new colleagues that she was not dangerous and disconnected from reality, as some claimed.

Her defense included statements that hinted at how far she had gone in the past.

“I also want to tell you, 9/11 absolutely happened,” she said. Also real: Mass shootings at schools. 

Democrats said the vote was about blocking a advocate of bizarre conspiracy theories from a key role on legislation. 

Republicans said that while Greene's comments were odious, racist and bizarre, Georgia voters had sent her to Congress. Democrats were overstepping their authority of how elected Republican members serve in the House.

Oregon's four other House members, Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton; Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland; Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield; and Kurt Schrader, D-Salem; voted in favor of her removal.

"This is not about policy disagreements, which are expected in Congress" Bonamici said after the vote. "This is because espousing violence and spreading harmful lies is dangerous."

The showdown over Greene was the second major test of Republican unity in less than 24 hours.

The House Republican Conference on Wednesday night turned back an effort by some members to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, as House Republican Conference chair, the third-ranking leadership position.

Some House Republicans wanted to punish Cheney for being among 10 GOP House members who voted for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

GOP House members who see support for Trump as a litmus test of party loyalty were especially furious over Cheney's vote. It carried extra weight because the conference chair is meant to communicate the consensus of Republican House members.

Though Cheney won her seat in Congress in the 2016 election that brought Trump to the White House, she's often seen as a symbol of the party before its embrace of Trump. The eldest daughter of Vice-President Dick Cheney, she served in the State Department before winning her father's old seat in Congress.

During the debate, Cheney reportedly told members she didn't regret voting to impeach Trump for "incitement to insurrection."

“I won’t apologize for the vote,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

During a break in the debate on Cheney, McCarthy backed Cheney.

"Liz has the right to vote her conscience," McCarthy said. "At the end of the day, we'll get united."

Bentz said he voted to retain Cheney, despite his vote against impeaching Trump.

Bentz said Cheney acknowledged the importance of making the distinction in the future regarding her positions as conference chair and as representative of her district.

NBC News, citing House members at the meeting, reported Cheney won 145-61 in the secret ballot.

While the Cheney vote played out behind closed doors, the fight over Greene's committee assignment was in public, with television coverage and online live reports.

Greene had a long history of statements advancing conspiracies and questioning whether major events actually happened or were staged.

She had backed the conspiracy group QAnon, which has been linked to violence. She had posted her approval online of a post calling for the murder of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with a "bullet to the head."

She has called the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon a hoax and speculated that  “space solar generators” were used to ignite wildfires in the western United States.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made a rare comment on a House member, saying Greene would damage Republicans' credibility.

"Looney lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country," McConnell said Monday.

No Republican House members defended Greene's statements, but said that as a duly elected member of the House, she should not be removed from her assignments due to statements made prior to being sworn-in last month.

Democrats had called on McCarthy to remove Greene, but when he refused, they made the rare motion on the floor to have the entire House vote on her assignments.

Democrats were especially enraged by Greene's appointment to the House Education & Labor Committee, which helps set national policy for schools.

Greene had harangued David Hogg, a survivor of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people.  

"He is very trained. He's like a dog. He's completely trained," Greene said in a 2019 video interview with a gun owners website. "I confronted David Hogg twice, and he ran away from me." 

Greene also said the December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people, including 20 children, was a hoax.

Greene has said what she saw on QAnon websites was nothing but "patriotic."

QAnon adherents were a significant presence during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that left a police officer and four demonstrators dead and more than 140 police injured.

Right-wing groups, including QAnon, the Proud Boys, the III Percenters and others launched the violent assault amid the Electoral College vote verifications. They were joined by a mob of Trump supporters who had marched from a rally where President Trump repeated his false claims that Democrats had stolen the election from him.

Security teams rushed members of Congress to safe areas moments before the vanguard of the assault entered the House and Senate chambers.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, led the argument that Greene should be removed from her assignments, saying her incendiary comments had helped drive the mobs at the Capitol. 

"I never want to see that again," he said.

Defending herself on the House floor, Greene, wore a "Free Speech" face mask. She said she no longer believed that the 9/11 attacks or the school shootings were hoaxes. Greene agreed with GOP House colleagues that it was unfair for her to be punished for statements she made prior to her election.

“During my campaign, I never said any of these things,” she said. “Not since I have been elected for Congress. These were words of the past and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values.” Greene claimed that her positions had been misrepresented by the media, which she equated with QAnon.

"I'm a very regular American, just like the people I represent in my district and most of the people across the country," she said. Greene said she had been apolitical until Trump ran for President in 2016.

"He was someone I could relate to, I enjoyed his plain talk — not the offensive things — but just the way he talked normally."

After the election, she felt "CNN and Fox News were not reflecting what I saw going on."

"So I start looking things up on the internet, asking questions, like most people do, every day, use Google," she said.

That's when she found QAnon.

"I  got very interested in it," she said. "So I posted about it on Facebook, I read about it, I talked about it, I asked questions about it. And then more information came from it."

For reasons she didn't specify, Greene said she "stopped believing it."

"I was allowed to believe things that weren't true," she said.

The involvement "is absolutely what I regret."

Greene blamed the "cancel culture" of "big media" for drawing attention to things she said prior to running for Congress last year.

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