Freshman Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol took her back to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., when she marched for more than 400 days in 2014 and 2015 following the killing by police of 18-year-old Michael Brown. She remembers being ambushed by police and white supremacists on several occasions, an experience which, she says, prepared her for the mob violence in the Capitol as Congress prepared to certify President Biden’s electoral victory.
“I never felt like I was about to die or that I could die in that situation,” Bush told Yahoo News on Tuesday, acknowledging the real and justified fears she shared with some of her colleagues. “What I felt like was, I’m ready. This is what we’ve been doing out there on the ground.”
Bush’s background as a nurse, pastor and activist in St. Louis has also prepared her for some fierce adversaries, including the high-profile Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has become notorious for her bizarre conspiracy theories, racist and anti-Semitic statements, and past support for “a bullet to the head” of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
House Democrats who have been calling for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip Greene of her committee assignments took matters into their own hands Wednesday afternoon. As a result of McCarthy’s inaction, the House Rules Committee met to consider Greene’s removal from two committees ahead of a vote on the full House floor on Thursday.
Speaker Pelosi, on Wednesday, slammed McCarthy’s “cowardly refusal” to unseat Greene from her assignments.
“After several conversations and literally running away from reporters, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Q-CA) made clear that he is refusing to take action against conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Pelosi said in a statement. “As a result, the House will continue with a vote to strip Greene of her seat on the esteemed House Committee on Education & Labor and House Committee on Budget. McCarthy’s failure to lead his party effectively hands the keys over to Greene – an anti-Semite, QAnon adherent and 9/11 Truther.”
McCarthy condemned Greene’s remarks Wednesday afternoon, but accused Democrats of having ulterior motives.
“I condemn those comments unequivocally,” he said in a statement, adding “Democrats are choosing to raise the temperature by taking the unprecedented step to further their partisan power grab regarding the committee assignments of the other party.”
Bush had a well-publicized confrontation with Greene in January over the latter’s refusal to wear a mask in a public space in a House office building. “She targeted me & others on social media,” Bush tweeted. “I’m moving my office away from hers for my team’s safety.”
A Greene spokesman later accused Bush of being the instigator and released a video of Greene on the phone without a mask and someone yelling at her to put a mask on.
But the Missouri Democrat’s larger concern is with Republicans who are attempting to put the horrifying violence of Jan. 6 behind them.
To date, no elected officials have been punished for their involvement in last month’s deadly attack. That’s unacceptable, said Bush, and shows that Republicans are failing at doing their jobs.
“We cannot be afraid of — whether it’s Donald Trump or any of his cronies … of what [any Republican] can do to us,” Bush said. “You were elected to represent the people, all the people, all of our communities. … [Including] those that don’t look like you and don’t believe like you, and don’t even like you and never voted for, you have to represent them the same way you will represent somebody that loves you and donated to you.”
McCarthy met with Greene on Tuesday to discuss her inflammatory rhetoric and advocacy of QAnon conspiracy theories. According to CNN, Greene refused McCarthy’s request to apologize for her past comments and views.
For Bush, it’s past time for Republican leaders to take action. Lives, including her own, have been at risk. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of “the Squad” of young progressive members of Congress, of which Bush is now a part, gave an emotional account Monday night of hiding in her office bathroom during the riot, fearing for her life, while the mob rampaged outside the door. Bush and her team had likewise locked themselves inside Bush’s office.
“We all raised our hands and took that oath together,” Bush said. “We took that oath at the same time on January the third. So they need to think again, because [this work is about] saving lives and building communities, building families, building people. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s humanity.”
Bush has been firm in her demands for accountability. Last month, she called for the expulsion of members of Congress complicit in the Jan. 6 riot, which left five people dead. Bush proposed legislation that would “investigate and expel the GOP members of Congress who attempted to overturn the election and incited a white supremacist attack.”
Republican leaders thus far have been reluctant to remove or even alienate radical members like Greene. But in a rare rebuke of a member of his own party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that “looney lies and conspiracy theories” are a “cancer” to the Republican Party. (He didn’t mention Greene by name.)
“I think our party has to make it very clear that she does not represent us in any way,” Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said. “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.”
Republicans have not made their position clear. On Thursday, House Democrats will ultimately decide Greene’s fate and committee appointments, likely to be stripped.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., another member of the Squad, called out Republicans for “whitewashing” Greene’s actions by their inaction.
“Let’s be clear: This is a desperate smear rooted in racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia,” Omar said in a statement on Wednesday. “Marjorie Taylor Greene has incited violence against her fellow Members of Congress, repeatedly singling out prominent women of color.”
“The House Republican Caucus, instead of holding her accountable, is now fanning the flames,” Omar added. “Republicans will do anything to distract from the fact that they have not only allowed but elevated members of their own caucus who encourage violence.”
Greene, however, has shown no signs of backing down. Instead, she’s calling out other Republicans.
“Too bad a few Republican Senators are obsessing over me, instead of preparing to defend President Trump from the rabid radical left,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Focus on ending the witch hunt. Do your job!”
But Bush says Republicans who are not able to uphold “the oath that they took” should rethink their roles in Congress altogether.
“If they choose not to love, respect, honor, and fight for humanity and choose not to give to the very same people that they swore an oath to defend the Constitution, that's supposed to protect them … they need to find another job,” Bush said. “And I’ve been very clear about that. Find another job, because this one isn’t for you. Everything’s not for everybody.”
For those who claim they are not “strong enough” to stand up to members of their own party, Bush says, try living just one day in the shoes of someone from her community.
“Be us for one day,” she said. “Come to our communities, live through what we’ve lived through. And then let’s talk about who you can stand up to. Let’s have that conversation, because for me, the alternative is struggling. Our people are struggling so bad, all they want to do is have a decent quality of life. ... That’s all they’re asking for.”
“So to all my Republican colleagues,” she summed up. “If that’s not for you, there are a lot of career choices out there.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images
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