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House Republicans To Meet To Hash Out Divisions Testing The Party

NOEL KING, HOST:

Senator Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington, is distancing himself from a fellow Republican - Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. She has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory. She has suggested that school shootings in which children were killed didn't happen. In a statement, McConnell said a person who believes, quote, "looney lies and conspiracy theories is a cancer for the Republican Party." Here he is talking to reporters yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: I think I adequately spoke out about how I feel about any effort to define the Republican Party in such a way.

KING: Republican leaders in the House will meet today to discuss this and some other disagreements. McConnell, a senator, will not be there. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is following this story. Good morning, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: Representative Greene appears completely unrepentant. How do Republicans start to address this?

GRISALES: Well, when it comes to House Republicans, by not saying much publicly to start, there were reports that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Greene behind closed doors last night, as well as the House GOP steering committee, which can make decisions on whether a member can stay on a panel. McCarthy said last week Greene's comments were deeply disturbing, but he and other House leaders haven't said much publicly since. So Greene is forcing these leaders to either address her claims or risk she becomes a new face for the party.

KING: OK, so members of the House to this point have been pretty silent. What about Republicans in the Senate? What are they saying about Representative Greene?

GRISALES: Those who are willing to discuss Greene say she is not good for the party and not good for the country. We heard McConnell say her comments were a cancer, and we heard that theme repeated again yesterday from others. For example, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst told a Capitol Hill pool reporter that she doesn't want Greene to be the face of the party. They don't need anyone promoting violence like she has. And it's a great time for the GOP to revisit what they want to see happen for the party in the coming years. Another senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, told reporters that the party's, quote, "big tent" is not big enough to accommodate both conservatives and "kooks."

KING: Now, all of that is happening among Republicans - worth noting that Democrats are threatening to force some action against Greene if Republicans don't address this situation. What are the Democrats saying they'll do?

GRISALES: Right. Democrats are moving forward with a resolution that could force Greene off her committee assignments. But this is highly unusual. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer conceded to reporters last night that this could backfire, setting a precedent for the GOP to kick their members off panels in the future. There's also some talk about censure or expulsion for Greene, but those plans haven't caught much traction yet. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last night that she just hopes McCarthy does the right thing and solves the Greene problem before Democrats step in. So what Republicans decide to do and how Democrats react could set the tone for how these future issues are handled.

KING: OK. And when Republican leaders meet today, they will discuss another member of their party, Liz Cheney, who supported President Trump's impeachment.

GRISALES: Yes, some of the same Senate Republicans are also stepping up to express support for Cheney. McConnell said she's a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them, and he looks forward to continuing to work with her. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, she's a valuable member of the party, a solid, reliable conservative woman, and the party needs more members like her. So that's putting pressure on McCarthy and other House members to push back on these members who are fierce loyalists of former President Trump and calling for Cheney to step down.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.