SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The newly elected Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has become a national figure this week for spreading false and dangerous conspiracy theories, including calling school shootings fake events. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned House Republicans who assigned Representative Taylor Greene to the education committee.
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NANCY PELOSI: What could they be thinking? Or thinking is too generous a word for what they might be doing? It's absolutely appalling. And I think that the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives.
SIMON: But what, if anything, can be done? NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us now. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: We heard the speaker in very direct language going after the Republican leadership who support Marjorie Taylor Greene. And she put responsibility for dealing with her directly in their hands. What's the response been so far?
ELVING: There are Republicans who want to join in condemning this kind of rhetoric and conspiracy, especially Representative Greene's approval of false and disturbing narratives about Sandy Hook and Parkland, massacres of schoolchildren. But there are also Republicans who want to circle the wagons and defend Representative Greene, much as they have defended the former president and his denial of the 2020 election results.
So many have looked to Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy to address all this. His staff says he is deeply troubled. And he will have a talk with Representative Greene this week. But so far, his priorities this year have been traveling to Mar-a-Lago to make up with the former president. And he seems rather focused on keeping his own job secure atop of the House minority, keeping his troops together and regaining majority control in 2022.
SIMON: And does this disagreement, to say the least, spill into the Senate, which, after all, just reached a power sharing agreement?
ELVING: Oh, yes. The Senate, in recent years, has looked and acted more and more like the House - less collegial, less congenial and more partisan than in the past. But there's more incentive for individual senators to work together, even now, in part because the chamber's tied at 50/50, and in part because the Senate has always had a more person-to-person style, at least until recently. And Republicans have to defend most of the seats that are on the ballot in 2022 without the benefit of gerrymandered districts, like the ones that protect members of the House.
SIMON: I mean, to recap, Representative Taylor Greene, at one point, tweeted that that the best way to deal - fastest way to deal with Speaker Pelosi would be a bullet to the head.
ELVING: Yes. So anyone saying that Speaker Pelosi is taking this too personally should probably ask themselves how they would feel about working with a colleague who had approved of a tweet about their assassination.
SIMON: At the same time, she has been elected. And I gather, constitutionally, it's difficult to remove a sitting representative.
ELVING: Yes. Her district in Georgia elected her just in November. The Democrats in the House can censure her with just a simple majority, and that may well happen. But to expel her would take a two-thirds vote, meaning something to - close to 70 Republicans would have to join in. And doing so would, no doubt, alienate some of their own supporters and voters back home, making them vulnerable to primary challenges. And even then, you'd have to ask, what would it ultimately accomplish? Would she not be more powerful as a martyr than she is now, far more important than she needs to be with an even bigger megaphone?
SIMON: Of course, President Biden's been active this week with executive orders, extended open enrollment on health care, visited soldiers at Walter Reed. We should note his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, was also a veteran.
ELVING: The new president may soon be suffering from repetitive motion syndrome, Scott, signing executive orders at a rate never seen before, largely to the effect of rescinding executive orders his predecessor signed. The new administration seems to be betting that their best antidote to dysfunctional government and a paralyzed Congress would be a functioning White House that gets things done that people can see and benefit from without needing to have all the attention focused on the president personally all the time.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.