(The Hill) — A judge’s decision to let an effort to block Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from running for office proceed could open a new avenue of attack against some of the GOP’s most controversial lawmakers.
Experts say it remains to be seen what the result of the single decision will be but it’s unlikely such an effort will knock Greene, or any other candidate, off the ballot. It could, however, give Democrats another opportunity to hit the GOP over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and force lawmakers to testify under oath.
Meanwhile, Republicans are warning the effort could backfire in the future.
While many said they were surprised the effort got the green light, some Republicans are accusing Obama-appointed Judge Amy Totenberg of holding liberal leanings that have politicized the process.
“The judge is incredibly liberal, so it doesn’t surprise me that she would do that but I was very surprised they even let that thing go through,” said Jay Williams, a Georgia-based Republican strategist.
Totenberg’s decision means that Greene will be called to testify on Friday, making her the first member of Congress to testify under oath about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The challenge, which was filed by the group Free Speech for the People on behalf of a group of Georgia voters last month with the Georgia secretary of state’s office, accuses the congresswoman of helping to facilitate the riot, which they say violates a provision of the 14th amendment and makes her ineligible to run for reelection.
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The amendment says no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
It was ratified after the Civil War in an effort to prevent lawmakers who had fought for the Confederacy from coming back to Congress.
Greene filed a lawsuit earlier this month requesting that the judge declare the law voters were using to challenge Greene’s eligibility for the ballot “unconstitutional” and block Georgia officials from using it.
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law emeritus at Harvard Law School, argued that the case against Greene was well-crafted and is helped by what he called “incontrovertible factual evidence” of her role in the attack.
“Having taken an oath of allegiance to our Constitution, she acted in coordination with co-conspirators close to the defeated President Trump to overthrow the 2020 presidential election and reverse its results,” Tribe told The Hill. “That the result she sought wasn’t achieved is irrelevant. Hers is a paradigm case for an adjudication of permanent disqualification from ever again holding public office.”
Other legal and political experts are questioning whether the effort will even advance to the next step.
“I guess it’s possible, but I certainly wouldn’t want to bet the farm on it,” said Charles Bullock, a professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.
“There’s no history of this, and if there is, you’d have to go back to the late 1860s,” he continued.
However, the idea has been floated in recent history in regard to other figures. Some Democrats, constitutional scholars, and pro-democracy advocates quietly explored how the 14th amendment could disqualify former President Trump from holding public office again due to his role in the attack on the Capitol.
An analysis conducted by The Hill in January found that around a dozen Democratic lawmakers have spoken either publicly or privately over the last year about how Section 3 of the 14th amendment might apply to those who were involved in the insurrection.
Last month, a federal judge blocked a legal challenge to North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R) candidacy. Like in Greene’s case, voters in Cawthorn’s state represented by the same group filed the suit to the State Board of Elections in January, arguing that Cawthorn’s comments in the speech shortly before the insurrection violate the 14th amendment.
The co-lead counsel for the 11 voters aiming to block Cawthorn from holding office, has called for the decision to be reversed in an appeal.
“We’ve already seen in North Carolina it wasn’t successful and so it’s not clear how this would be any different,” said national GOP strategist Doug Heye.
But there is still the question of how these efforts could impact figures like Greene and Cawthorn from a political standpoint.
Greene painted the move to block her from running for office as a personal attack on members of her district from liberal outsiders during an interview with conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson on Fox News on Monday.
“These people hate the people in my district so much,” Greene said. “They look down on them because they voted for me and sent me to Washington to fight for the things that most Americans care about.”
“They’ve hired up some attorneys from New York that hate the people in my district and don’t believe that they should have the right to elect who they want to send to Washington,” she said.
Greene later alluded to how the effort could set a precedent for Republicans moving to block Democratic officials from running for office.
“I bet you we could round up some Republican voters who didn’t like Kamala Harris funding criminal rioters out of jail or Ilhan Omar, or Cori Bush, or Maxine Waters inciting riots,” Greene said. “I think there’s another way to play this game.”
The congresswoman’s campaign team tweeted the videos in a thread on Tuesday, wrapping it with a call to donate to her reelection campaign.
Greene is gearing up for her first reelection bid in the staunchly Republican 14th Congressional District. Five Republicans have lined up to challenge her in the May 25 primary, but Greene’s incumbency and fundraising strength give her a clear-cut advantage.
Democrats have pointed to news that one of Greene’s Democratic challengers, Marcus Flowers, outraised Greene in the first three months of the year. Flowers brought in $2.4 million while Greene raked in less than $1.1 million during the same period.
But any Democrat would have a difficult time ousting Greene in a general election. While the congressional seat has been impacted by redistricting, it is still heavily Republican.
In terms of the political impact of the effort to block Greene from holding office, Republicans of all stripes say it will only galvanize the already energized conservative base.
But the effort could also put Greene in the position of having to spend time, energy, and resources dealing with the matter. There is also the question of how the optics of Greene testifying under oath on the Jan. 6 attacks in court could be used against her.
“You can’t ignore it,” said Chuck Clay, a former Republican state senator and Georgia GOP chair. “So to the extent where she’s having to respond to explain or spend money on her own behalf, I guess as a tactic, there’s some value in it either way you look at it by prolonging it.”
Greene commented on having to testify during an interview with a conservative outlet this week, saying she was being “forced” onto the witness stand.
“They’re actually putting me on the witness stand on Friday. I am the first Republican member of Congress that is going to be forced to take the witness stand under oath and defend myself against a lie and something I never did,” she said.
And while the case is being watched by political circles in Washington and Georgia, others question how much voters in the district are actually paying attention.
“I haven’t gotten one phone call about it other than reporters calling me about it. I don’t know that a lot of Republicans are really too concerned about it, to be honest with you,” Williams said.