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Marjorie Taylor Greene is taking a new approach to Washington

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is no stranger to controversy with her extremist, far-right rhetoric and ties to former President Donald Trump. But the new year and the new Congress have placed her in the spotlight for a different reason - her vocal support for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler has more on Greene's new approach to Washington.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: When the first day of Congress adjourned and lawmakers went spilling into the halls of the Capitol without being sworn in, most Republicans were understandably frustrated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: It's not a popularity contest. It's not who we like and who we don't like because - you want to know something? That is the failure of Republicans.

FOWLER: About 90% of the GOP conference voted for Kevin McCarthy three times that day, so that sentiment wasn't a surprise, but the speaker was - Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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GREENE: The Republicans are the party of never, and it's always never when they don't like somebody. And that's how we failed the country.

FOWLER: Greene is one of the most prolific fundraisers and attention-getters in the Republican Party, and not always for good reasons. Democrats stripped her of committee assignments for a cornucopia of comments that dabbled in degrees of conspiracy theories, antisemitism and other incendiary rhetoric that she has occasionally apologized for.

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GREENE: So I just wanted to come here today and say that I'm truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust. There's no comparison.

FOWLER: After Republicans regained control of the chamber by the narrowest of margins in November, Greene's unwavering support for Speaker McCarthy, alongside her unflinching commitment to ultraconservative policies, places her into a new nexus of power. Here's Greene on Fox News.

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GREENE: I have the support of the base, and I keep telling everyone here in Washington, this is what the American people want. And it was easy for me to get on board with this agenda because I'd see the conference come around the same thing.

JIM HOBART: She's got the ear of McCarthy. She's got the ear of the former president, who's still, arguably, the leader of the party. You know, she has a lot of voters, nationwide, who like her.

FOWLER: That's Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster and partner at Public Opinion Strategies. He says there's a bit of a power vacuum in the Republican Party right now, especially in the House, where it only takes a few people within the ranks to make or break legislation.

John Mason Long is a Georgia-based Republican strategist who says it's smart for Greene to choose the make option by supporting McCarthy, given the current dynamics where the House needs the entire conference on the same page.

JOHN MASON LONG: What she knows she has to do is be an effective legislator, and that's why she's got a great relationship with Speaker McCarthy. And then she's got a great relationship with the other side of the party, that more Freedom Caucus side of the party.

FOWLER: So what's changed from the last Congress to this one? Is it the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene or a little bit of both? Here's Jim Hobart again.

HOBART: I don't know necessarily if Marjorie Taylor Greene has changed. She's just changed the tone of the way she talks about things. She's changed who she is talking to, and she's changed the focus in those conversations.

FOWLER: It's possible that Greene's rise in power and prominence are the beginnings of a greater shift within the party, as some seek to merge the pro-Trump fervor with actual governing. Or it could merely be a byproduct of this particular moment in this particular majority in this particular Congress.

For NPR News, I'm Stephen Fowler in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPO'S "ZORZAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Fowler is the Producer/Back-Up Host for All Things Considered and a creative storyteller hailing from McDonough, Georgia. He graduated from Emory University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. The program combined the best parts of journalism, marketing, digital media and music into a thesis on the rise of the internet rapper via the intersectionality of social media and hip-hop. He served as the first-ever Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel, where he helped lead the paper into a modern digital era.