Updated Mar 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The GOP’s untouchable loudmouths

Photo illustration of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) casting shadows with fingers held up
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Far-right Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) are untouchable inside the House Republican conference.

Why it matters: Greene and Gosar can attend as many white supremacist conferences as their hearts desire, safe in the knowledge there's nothing they need from leadership — and nothing left for leadership to take from them.

  • They've already been stripped of their committees. They have zero need or interest in leadership's endorsements or money. And their power actually comes from offending Republican leadership in Washington.
  • "They literally have nothing tangible [to punish them] in terms of the traditional congressional levers," a GOP leadership source told Axios.

Behind the scenes: Greene has long gloated she's immune to punishment by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. That's true even after she and Gosar appeared at a gathering of white nationalists hosted by the outspoken Holocaust denier, antisemitic, homophobic and racist activist Nick Fuentes.

  • When Donald Trump was running for president in 2016, he famously boasted he "could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any voters."
  • Greene made her own version of that statement, bragging during a rally in Texas last month that "Kevin can't do anything about me."

She's right. McCarthy can't do anything to punish her — even if he wanted to (which, we're told, he doesn't).

  • Greene can't be stripped of any congressional committee assignments because Democrats have already removed her and Gosar from all their committees.
  • "In a way, the Dems have helped," the GOP leadership source told Axios. "It would be a lot harder for leadership right now if she and him were both still sitting on a committee."
  • And there's no chance Greene and Gosar will be expelled from the Republican conference. That would require a two-thirds vote, which is hard to imagine ever happening even if McCarthy were whipping the votes as if his life depended on it.

Greene doesn't need money or connections to big-time donors that GOP leadership could offer her in exchange for good behavior.

She's independently wealthy and a grassroots fundraising powerhouse, due purely to her intense appeal among committed Republican base donors.

  • Greene raised nearly $7.5 million in 2021, according to Federal Election Commission records.
  • Among House Republicans, only McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) raised more.
  • Nearly all of Greene's fundraising came from individual donors; just a single corporate PAC gave to her campaign last year — donating a paltry $2,500.
  • Gosar's fundraising picture is bleaker. He brought in under $350,000 last year, FEC records show. But given he's impossible to outflank on the far-right, Gosar has little trouble fending off Republican primary challengers.
  • Neither is particularly vulnerable in a general election either; the Cook Political Report rates both of their districts as solidly Republican.

In 2019, GOP leadership stripped then-Rep. Steve King of Iowa of his committee assignments for making comments sympathetic to white nationalists. Now, though, there's nothing available to take away from Greene or Gosar.

  • "MTG [Marjorie Taylor Greene] is worse than Steve King," said a senior Republican aide.
  • "With King, there was a path to getting him out of the House, but Greene is a fundraising machine with a following, loving the spotlight," the aide added.
  • "The best [House] Republicans can hope for is that she runs for the Senate someday."

What they're saying: Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) said their attendance at the white nationalist event was a "huge mistake" that "confirms what people like to say about us, which I believe is generally untrue."

Asked if there should be consequences, though, he repeated: "It was a huge mistake."

  • Crenshaw called Fuentes, the organizer of the event, a "psychopath and an antisemite," and said, "Nobody should ever be speaking at any of his events."
  • However, Crenshaw said punishments are "always for show" and balked at the idea of backing primary opponents to either lawmaker.
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said his party has "got to make very clear" it is "100%, steadfast against white nationalism."
  • But Bacon said all the party can do in response is "make clear we don't like it," and "give them the stiff arm and say it's repugnant."
  • "You would hope their districts would see this and make a better choice," Bacon added. "I'll leave it to their districts."

The bottom line: McCarthy said Monday that Greene's and Gosar's appearances at the white nationalist conference were "appalling and wrong," but he's made clear he won't publicly say anything more about the subject.

McCarthy has told colleagues he's addressed the matter with Greene in a private conversation.

  • A source familiar with McCarthy's thinking said he's "frustrated by the constant distractions" from Greene and Gosar.
  • "We have a great opportunity to take the House back; we have a great opportunity to set ourselves up for '24," the source added. "And you have ... folks who don't seem to want to keep the team in the forefront."
  • A spokesman for McCarthy declined comment.

Pressed about her attendance at the event, Greene said she didn't know anything about Fuentes and his views.

  • She said she didn't support white nationalism.
  • Her ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), defended her by citing her speech to the group, during which she said "it doesn't matter what your skin color is ... it matters who you are as a person.

Editor's note: This story originally published on March 2.

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