Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had quite a week on Capitol Hill, illustrating her transformation from burn-it-all-down outsider to a still-radical conservative looking for insider allies.
The far-right renegade kicked it off Tuesday with a 4 p.m. fundraising reception hosted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), courting money from corporations and K Street lobbyists.
She ended the week Friday by backtracking on her public statements opposing the annual Pentagon policy bill and its support of Ukraine’s defense. Instead, she provided a crucial vote for the legislation in exchange for a seat at the table when House and Senate negotiators hammer out the differences between their respective versions of the legislation in the fall.
“Well, that’s what we do here. We negotiate,” Greene told reporters after voting for the legislation Friday morning, 16 hours after telling them she would oppose it. “This is just moving the bill, which has so many good things in it, to the next phase — where I can actually have a bigger voice.”
That would be a fairly typical week for most members of Congress: wining and dining donors for political dollars and leveraging one’s vote to try to gain more influence.
For Greene, it was just one part of a most atypical week.
She arrived in Congress in January 2021 with no intention of conforming to the usual niceties of maneuvering inside the formal power corridors. Her past comments, mostly on social media, resurfaced and illustrated an odd, if not dangerous, set of beliefs. They included suggestions the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by U.S. government forces and that a Jewish cabal had sparked a deadly California wildfire with a laser beam directed from space.
Democrats, when still in the majority, ejected her from legislative committees, and some expressed genuine fear of working near her.
But once Republicans seized the majority this year and McCarthy appeared on his way to becoming speaker, Greene pivoted toward becoming very much an insider in the game of Washington politics. While other members of the far right forced McCarthy into 15 rounds of voting to win the speaker’s gavel, she turned into one of his most vociferous champions.
He placed her back on her committees, and the two have remained close since then. She even donated $100,000 to the House GOP campaign account as part of a quasi-auction, receiving McCarthy’s favorite lip balm in return.
But late last month, Greene’s onetime allies in the House Freedom Caucus, which is home to three dozen or so of the most hardened conservatives, effectively filed for political divorce from her.
She declined to say she had formally been ejected from the group. “I could care less about talking about this. I’m here to do a job, not talk about drama and gossip,” she told reporters Friday, adding, “You guys talk to them more than I do.”
To be sure, Greene’s evolution should not be considered a moderation of her ideology. Nor is she turning into a RINO, as hard-liners like to label “Republicans in name only.” Instead, these moves probably more reflect how much the Trump wing of the party is taking over as the Establishment it once ridiculed.
She still opposes any funding to support Ukraine’s defense against the Russian incursion. She still loudly defends those at the D.C. jail who were arrested over the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
She still campaigns with Trump, as she did July 1 by appearing with him in South Carolina to proclaim “God bless the Supreme Court” after its ruling against affirmative-action programs.
And she still wants to impeach President Biden, something she first spelled out with a resolution introduced on Biden’s first full day in the Oval Office. In fact, the breakup with the Freedom Caucus came partly because of a fight over who on the right deserves credit for trying to impeach Biden.
In late June, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a popular member of the far-right caucus who often antagonizes McCarthy, forced a vote on her resolution to impeach Biden, mostly over his handling of migrants at the southern border.
Greene confronted Boebert on the House floor in an obviously heated conversation, admitting to reporters later that she called Boebert a “little b–ch” who tried to steal Greene’s impeachment thunder.
All that attention and drama surrounding Greene proved politically beneficial. Until Trump became president, she had run a CrossFit gym. Now, she’s one of the most prolific fundraisers in the GOP. Her $12.6 million haul in 2022 made her one of the top money-raisers among rank-and-file Republicans.
Her reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that she raised no money from the types of corporate PACs that are regular stops on the political cocktail circuit.
Until now, Greene relied heavily on small-dollar donors as well as on some culturally conservative PACs focused on opposing abortion or backing gun rights.
Yet, early Tuesday, lobbyists representing many Fortune 100 clients received notice from one of McCarthy’s fundraisers.
The speaker wanted them to attend his event being held on Greene’s behalf. To be labeled a host, each PAC paid $2,500 while individual lobbyists forked over $1,000 for host status.
Others could donate $500 to Greene’s campaign just to get in the door, according to the invitation.
It was Greene’s first fundraiser in Washington, she said, thanking McCarthy for his hospitality. “It went well. I’m grateful for his support, and I was grateful for the people that came to support me,” she told reporters.
When it came to the annual Pentagon bill, Greene navigated the dynamics like a seasoned veteran of the House.
She supported efforts by her former close friends in the Freedom Caucus not to just accept the traditionally bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act after it had been approved 58 to 1 in the Armed Services Committee. Members forced amendment votes that larded the bill with restrictions on abortion rights, transgender health services and diversity issues.
With amendments on those issues winning, Democratic support cratered, leaving McCarthy no choice but to get almost every vote just from his side of the aisle.
Despite those conservative culture-war riders added to the bill, Greene remained opposed because she had failed to strip out funding for Ukraine.
“I’m a no. And I’ve let leadership know that from the beginning,” she said Thursday evening.
GOP leaders had enough support “without me” to pass the bill, Greene said. “I’d love to vote for it, but it still has my red line, and that was funding for Ukraine.”
By late Friday morning, Greene reversed herself and voted yes.
The legislation passed narrowly, 219 to 210, with 215 Republicans in support and four opposing. Just one fewer vote — from Greene or any other GOP lawmaker — and the legislation would have passed only because of the four Democratic votes in favor. That would have been a bad look symbolically for McCarthy.
Greene crossed her own “red line” because McCarthy asked her to join the group of House negotiators who will try to forge a final compromise with senators. A lot probably will be at stake in those talks because the Democratic-led Senate’s version of the bill is likely to contain none of the restrictions on social policy.
Greene vows to continue the fight against Ukraine war funds, but her effort will be futile. Just 70 lawmakers voted to cut off security support for Ukraine, with 358 in support. The Senate is even more vociferously supportive of the battle against Russia.
In all likelihood, Greene will end up voting against the final version of the NDAA — effectively being for it on Friday before she ends up being against it later this year.
Greene did not like to consider her vote “a deal” but acknowledged that McCarthy would stick to tradition by appointing to the conference committee only members who support the House bill.
“Well, you can’t be a part of the conference committee if you’re not voting to move the bill to the next level,” Greene said.
That type of maneuver is not that unusual for most lawmakers. For Greene, it is a head-spinning departure from her first year in office, but it is time to expect more inside moves like these.
“Our job here in Washington isn’t to be the anti-leadership fight, or just to constantly say no,” she explained Friday. “Our job here in Washington as lawmakers and representatives is to represent our districts and stand firm on what we believe is the right thing to do for our country, but also to be able to get in the room to make that happen.”