Gaetz, Greene flaunt new paths to power, testing GOP leaders

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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional leaders have always faced rebels in their ranks. But Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are presenting top House Republicans with a test of how to handle a new breed of Trump-era, social media-savvy firebrands. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders have always faced rebels in their ranks. But Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are presenting top House Republicans with a test of how to handle a new breed of Trump-era, social media-savvy firebrands.

Gaetz, a third-term Floridian, and Greene, a Georgia freshman, have attracted more public attention lately than most junior members of Congress. Much of it hasn't been positive.

That's confronting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., with questions about whether the two hard-right provocateurs might hurt the GOP’s goal of capturing House control in next year’s elections. Party leaders must decide what, if anything, to do about them, and what impact any action would have on their supporters, who come from the GOP's staunchly conservative base.

“These are folks who operate in their own bubbles,” said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who headed the House GOP’s campaign operation. “They know how to get press, they don’t worry about being too outrageous."

“They have absolutely safe seats,” Davis said.

However, the Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws and had sex with a 17-year-old girl, and McCarthy has suggested he'll take action if Gaetz is indicted.

And a memo linked to Greene described a proposed America First Caucus hailing “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and warning of immigration's threat to the U.S.'s “unique culture,” prompting McCarthy to denounce “nativist dog whistles.”

Gaetz has denied the accusations against him, which were described by people familiar with the investigation. He hasn't been charged with any crimes and says he is “absolutely not resigning."