WASHINGTON — House Republicans don't have to stand so close to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican who spouts lunatic-fringe conspiracy theories and antisemitic sentiments with frequency and fervor.
They could kick "MTG" out of their caucus.
That power is defined in the second clause of the House GOP Conference rulebook.
"Expulsion — A two-thirds vote of the entire membership shall be necessary to expel a Member of the Conference," the clause states. "Proceedings for expulsion shall follow the rules of the House of Representatives, as nearly as practicable."
But they won't do it. Experts on House procedures say there's no precedent for the Republican Conference to excommunicate one of its own members, and the two-thirds bar is a high one. Besides, while Greene promises to continue to be a pain for GOP leaders, there's no reason to think that punishing her would have the desired effect.
The chances of Greene getting kicked out of the conference are "slim to none," former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., said. "That’s as extreme as it gets. Some of the stunts other people have pulled over the years and they didn’t get expelled, I don’t see her getting expelled from the caucus."
Greene's latest set of offenses against the sensibilities of many of her House colleagues involves her repeatedly invoking the Holocaust as a comparison point for mask mandates.
"Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the [sic] Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star," she tweeted Tuesday. "Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable."
This absurd twist on history complicates Republican arguments that Democrats are insufficiently supportive of Israel and the Jewish people following some Democrats' criticism of Israel during its recent exchange of hostilities with Palestinians.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blasted Greene in a statement Tuesday morning, but he made no mention of any potential repercussion.
"Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling," McCarthy said in an unusually harsh condemnation of one of his rank-and-file members. "The Holocaust is the greatest atrocity committed in history. The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling."
A spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said, "We also need to be speaking out strongly against the dangerous antisemitism that is growing in our streets and in the Democrat Party, resulting in an alarming number of horrific violent attacks against Jews."
Republicans have been through this with Greene before — and with Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was deposed as House Republican Conference Chair for her repudiations of President Donald Trump's false claims that the last presidential election was stolen by Democrats. Kicking a member out of leadership is a less-extreme sanction than removing one from the caucus altogether.
Still, Republicans declined to take any collective action against Greene this year after it was revealed that she had blamed California wildfires on a Jewish space laser, promoted the QAnon and "pizzagate" conspiracy theories and liked a Facebook post suggesting "a bullet to the head" would be a quick way to take power away from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi found a way to take a small measure of power from Greene in February: She had the House vote to strip the Georgia congresswoman of her two committee assignments, making MTG a legislator at large. Eleven Republicans voted with Democrats on that resolution.
The lesson Greene appears to have learned is that her outlandishness is lucrative. She raised $3.2 million for her re-election campaign from January through March, the vast majority of it from small-dollar donors. She transferred $175,000 of that haul to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm of the House GOP, in late January.
She's also found she's not entirely isolated among her House Republican colleagues. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who is being investigated by the FBI in relation to a sex-trafficking probe, has joined her to rally against the 2020 presidential election results.
Greene defended herself on Twitter by doubling down in an attack on Democrats.
"Their attempts to shame, ostracize, and brand Americans who choose not to get vaccinated or wear a mask are reminiscent of the great tyrants of history who did the same to those who would not comply," she wrote. "I'm sorry some of my words make people uncomfortable, but this is what the American left is all about."
In the absence of action by Republicans, there could be a move by Democrats to formally censure Greene on the House floor.
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said Tuesday that he would soon introduce a censure resolution.
"It is shameful that the Republican Conference continues to let her define their party, and dangerous that they refuse to expel her," he said in a statement. " I hope that if ... McCarthy truly believes that what Rep. Greene said was ‘appalling,’ he will join our effort to censure her.”
Still, Westmoreland said House Republican leaders don't have great options.
"What do you do?" he said. "The problem is the people of Georgia in her congressional district elected her to go to D.C. ... I don't think 99.9 percent of the people agree with some of the things that she’s said, but at the same time she’s an elected representative."