Dec 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Marjorie Taylor Greene's MAGA power play

Photo illustration of Marjorie Taylor Greene tinted red, pointing to her right, in front of an energetically textured blue background

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is making a new play for influence, becoming a surprising yet crucial defender of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Why it matters: Greene has a playbook to follow from another bombastic outsider who climbed the ranks within the House GOP, moving from a fringe conservative to a key party player who now serves in leadership — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  • "Jim and I talk frequently ... we're similar thinkers," Greene told Axios about Jordan, a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and longtime antagonist of GOP leadership.
  • Jordan was one of the first high-profile members to publicly support Greene when she first ran for office, and she continues to seek his advice, sources familiar with their relationship tell Axios.

The big picture: Greene is betting that backing up McCarthy in his time of dire need will pave a path to legitimacy and power if he becomes speaker.

  • She’s increasingly drawing herself closer to the establishment without abandoning her bombastic rhetoric and contentious ideology.
  • “I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” Greene told The New York Times in October, weeks before McCarthy’s ambitions of becoming speaker were dampened by Republicans’ underwhelming performance in the midterm elections.
  • She insists that she hasn’t “been promised anything”: “I’ve asked for committee positions, but I’m not doing it with a guaranteed deal,” Greene told Axios.

Unlike former House Republican Speakers, like John Boehner and Paul Ryan, McCarthy has brought many ultra-conservative figures into the fold.

  • That includes Greene, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller and lawmakers in the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
  • The relationships go both ways: McCarthy has spent years cultivating ties with the far-right flank and views their popularity with the GOP base as an asset. He thinks keeping these members closer will ultimately serve him better down the line.
  • Greene meets weekly with McCarthy, and the minority leader often invites her to high-profile policy meetings, such as on defense spending, and takes her temperature on the right flank.

Jordan staked his early career on defying Republican leaders and pushing fringe conservative ideals, then became a top supporter of McCarthy and has worked his way into the GOP leadership circle.

  • He's expected to be the chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee in the new Congress.
  • That role that gives him a lot of latitude — and subpoena power — to carry out a series of political, high-profile investigations into the FBI, Justice Department, Hunter Biden and more.
  • “I think [Greene's] like me in thinking that Leader McCarthy's done a good job of keeping our team focused, keeping us together.… I assume she's supporting him for the same reason I am,” Jordan told Axios. “I think Kevin has reached out to all parts of the conference, and that's important."

The bottom line: "A decade ago, no one would have imagined that Jim Jordan would today be taking over one of the most influential committees in the House," a GOP consultant told Axios.

  • "What changed? He spent the last five years not just being a conservative firebrand on Fox News, but simultaneously building respect and relationships within Congress."
  • "It’s clear to me that MTG is attempting to plot a similar path to seriousness, while still retaining what made her popular to the base in the first place."
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