33

Marjorie Taylor Greene was expelled by the House of Representatives this week from committee assignments after her comments on conspiracy theories. The vote passed by 230-199 with 11 Republicans joining the Democrats .

What kind of checks and balances are in place to stop Democrats doing this to every member of the Republican party in congress? And vice versa when the Republicans have the majority? As if there are no rules/ conditions on what mandates an expulsion, the majority party could theoretically do this each session to gain complete control over committees.

Edit I’m seeing lots of interesting answers about why this wouldn’t happen because of political reasons. But I was wondering if there were specific rules and laws about this which stops such an event happening.

2
  • 10
    "after her comments on conspiracy theories." Just a point of clarification, she said those things before she was elected. – frеdsbend Feb 8 at 3:25
  • @frеdsbend Yes. However, a lot of them only came to light/the attention of House Democrats after she was elected. And I believe she continued with new ones/repeating them after election, too. – TylerH Feb 9 at 14:48
20

For the most part — and note that the actual procedures vary from committee to committee — committee membership is divided between the majority and minority parties by formula. The upshot is that removing a member of one party from committees doesn't give any particular advantage to the other party; new committee members will be selected by the leader of the first party, to keep the committee balance the same.

This kerfuffle from conservatives is purely political. Democrat's want Greene removed from committees as punishment for the crazy and violent ideation Greene has endorsed; Republicans are trying hard to move past the QAnon thing and the last remnants of Trumpism without alienating the Trumpist base. Having made this stand as a sop to the base, the House GOP leadership is unlikely to seek out retribution (despite what they say) because any efforts to turn this back on the Democrats will merely bring Greene's bad, crazed actions back into the limelight.

11
  • 5
    The Republicans are probably not united behind the cause of moving past QAnon/Trumpism, in part because they don't yet know what's best for them electorally, unless you know of evidence to the contrary. – J.G. Feb 8 at 18:04
  • 6
    trying hard to move past the QAnon thing [citation needed] – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 8 at 18:34
  • 1
    @J.G.: Well, Trumpism more generally is one thing — that has base appeal — but the real QAnon (and I'm just going to pause in sadness over the fact that QAnon has become mainstream enough to make it into autocorrect) crazies make the GOP look bad, and everyone knows it. They may coddle these people for the moment, but Repubs really don't want their brand associated with Jewish space lasers, satanic cults, or half-naked guys with Viking horns. – Ted Wrigley Feb 8 at 18:34
  • 6
    Lol alright, I see absolutely no evidence the GOP is trying hard to move past the "QAnon thing," seeing as they reportedly gave Greene a standing ovation in private conference. – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 8 at 18:39
  • 2
    That's half the GOP House delegation. Would love to see this evidence you've seen, because everything else seems to suggest that getting these highly motivated conservative voters riled up and out to the polls is the GOP's primary tactic at all levels. I don't see a change of heart in anyone except maybe the 11 that voted to de-cmte Greene that it's gone too far. – Azor Ahai -him- Feb 8 at 19:38
39

What's to stop the House majority party from voting to expel every member of the House minority party from committees?

That might work for a few months as most committees and subcommittees are not permanent. It might even work for two years if the majority party continued to expel every minority party member from their assigned committees.

But then the retribution would be swift and severe. The majority party would become the minority party at the next election. Only those in bluest of blue districts when the Democrats are in the majority (or those in the reddest of red districts when the Republicans are in the majority) would see such a move as a good thing.

In most cases, the House follows its established rules on committee and subcommittee assignments. The majority party gets the chairmanship and the majority of members. Why go further and expel members (every minority member) when the existing rules already effectively leave the minority party demoralized and more or less powerless?

4
  • What's demoralizing about being in the minority party? That seems a bit much. – TylerH Feb 9 at 14:49
  • @TylerH When the party in power changes is when mass retirements by those who managed to hang onto their seats but nonetheless lost the majority are announced. They'll stick out those last two years, but that's it. Members of the House cannot filibuster; that's a concept specific to the Senate. They cannot get partisan agendas heard as the chairs and majority of members in committee / subcommittee are of the majority party. The best they can do is waste time by talking for a limited amount of time during meetings, and perhaps join with a member of the majority to write a bipartisan bill – David Hammen Feb 9 at 15:02
  • 1
    So, "work together" is what they can do, got it. Not demoralizing. – TylerH Feb 9 at 16:27
  • @TylerH Working together is possible, and sometimes required, when the majority party doesn't have a trifecta (the same party controls the House, the Senate, and the Presidency). Right now, the Democrats do have a trifecta. Working together under these circumstances can be quite demoralizing. – David Hammen Feb 9 at 20:40
13

But I was wondering if there were specific rules and laws about this which stops such an event happening.

There is not, and cannot be, a law which binds the House on this. After all, the Constitution says:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings

and a law would have to be passed by the Senate and possibly the President. This would mean other bodies would be determining its rules, and that would be unconstitutional.

The House does have rules on the party composition of at least some committees. For example, according to the rules for the 116th Congress:

The Committee on Ethics shall be composed of 10 members, five from the majority party and five from the minority party.

But nothing prevents the majority party from simply changing the rules. See, for example, the "nuclear option" invoked by the Senate. If a majority claims a rule doesn't exist, it's not like the minority can somehow overrule them. The Supreme Court isn't going to step in unless they violate an actual constitutional provision (for example, the clause about needing 2/3 to expel a member can't be overruled by a majority.)

7
  • 8
    There is an iron law that which binds all political activity: sometimes you loose. – jmoreno Feb 7 at 14:44
  • 1
    @D M You are absolutely right that there cannot be a law in the sense of an Act of Congress. But some people would consider that the House could bind itself: it could adopt a rule about committee composition and another rule forbidding the first one being amended (even when a new House draws up new rules). Whether this is constitutional is an issue in Senate filibuster/voting reform; James Fallows & others have argued that the Senate could just adopt new rules, by majority vote, to abolish the current practice that legislation must be supported by three-fifths of Senators. Not everyone agrees. – Matthew Feb 7 at 16:33
  • Sounds like the answer is there are no ultimate rules preventing this, just a few internal rules and agreements backed up by political tit for tat common sense. – Slarty Feb 7 at 16:33
  • 3
    @Slarty Mr Fallows and his supporters would argue that this is what has already happened in the Senate. The two-thirds requirement has enabled Republican minorities, which oppose government action, to prevent the Congressional majority from passing laws on a wide range of issues, effectively destroying the political system. Harry Reid and others who support the current rules argue that the Senate has the constitutional right to establish its own rules, and if those rules benefit one side more, so be it. The same arguments would apply in the House. D M, your answer should mention this debate. – Matthew Feb 7 at 16:48
  • 1
    @jmoreno This is not universal, see Putin. – user253751 Feb 8 at 9:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .