House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership post today because she continues to challenge former president Donald Trump over his false claims about the presidential election being stolen and his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The vote to remove her as chair of the House Republican Conference underscored that the party will not tolerate disagreements with Trump, whose active support many argue is needed for the party to win the House majority in the 2022 midterm election.
Cheney, 54, has called her decision to publicly fight Trump a matter of principle, warning that allowing him to falsely claim that the election was stolen amounts to an attack on Democracy and is destructive to the GOP and its values.
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy,” Cheney told her Republican colleagues Wednesday morning, according to a person familiar with her remarks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. “But I promise you this, after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.”
House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), have said that her fights with the former one-term president have become a distraction and that she should not serve in a leadership position where the job is to unify the party as it seeks to combat President Biden’s agenda and win back the House.
“Any member can take whatever position they believe in … What we’re talking about is a position in leadership,” McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News Channel on Sunday, adding: “As conference chair, you have one of the most critical jobs as a messenger going forward.”
As Republican House leaders were saying it is time to move on and unify the party, Trump publicly reveled in Cheney’s ouster.
“Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country,” he said in a statement. “She is a talking point for Democrats, whether that means the Border, the gas lines, inflation, or destroying our economy. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our Great Military, the worst decision in our Country’s history. I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!”
Despite Trump’s repeated comments that the election was stolen from him and the vote to remove Cheney for challenging that false assertion, McCarthy said that no one is questioning Biden’s legitimacy following a meeting at the White House with the president and congressional leaders Wednesday.
“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” McCarthy told reporters. “I think that is all over with. We’re sitting here with the president today.”
McCarthy voted to contest the certification of Biden’s victory and signed onto a Texas lawsuit seeking unprecedented judicial intervention in disallowing millions of votes and the election results from four key swing states that went for Biden.
Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Richard B. Cheney, is expected to be replaced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), 36, a onetime moderate turned Trump loyalist.
Trump and Republican leaders have endorsed her candidacy for conference chair. A vote is expected Friday.
“I know firsthand the discipline and message it takes to fight back against the biased national media and the entire Democrat and Far-Left infrastructure,” Stefanik said Wednesday in a letter to colleagues officially announcing her candidacy for the now-vacant leadership post. “I know what it takes to flip a district and grow the Republican Party. I will work hard today and every day to listen and earn your confidence and support as House GOP Conference Chair.”
Elise Stefanik said she was one of the ‘most bipartisan’ members of Congress. Then she went all in on Trump’s false election claims.
But while GOP leaders said the goal of removing Cheney was to unify the party, Stefanik’s expected ascension has brought its own set of problems with some conservative members arguing her moderate voting record makes her a poor fit for leadership. Stefanik opposed Trump’s signature 2017 tax cuts as well as some of his environmental policies.
“I think she’s liberal,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who does not plan to support her candidacy.
In recent days, Stefanik has done interviews with conservative news outlets to promote herself as an ally of the former president who is laser focused on the 2022 election.
Still, some in the conference said the party should not rush to vote on Cheney’s successor.
“I just think we ought to have time,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said Tuesday evening. “We got an agenda that we need to build to make sure the American people are following our ideas.”
No candidates have emerged to challenge Stefanik, leading her opponents to say she will likely get the job.
“She has Trump’s support, Kevin McCarthy’s support, [House Minority Whip Steve] Scalise’s support — I don’t think there will be anybody who wants to risk a future chairmanship or future role in the party to take on Elise Stefanik which I think is terribly unfortunate,” Buck said.
The ‘GOP Impeachment 10’ try to navigate Cheney’s demise and their own futures
Democrats, who have little in common with Cheney on policy issues, praised her stand and portrayed her removal as a defining moment for the two parties on telling the truth to the American people and whether Trump bears responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“There are but two parties now: patriots and traitors,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, referring to a quote from Ulysses S. Grant regarding the Civil War.
Democrats also noted that Republicans have made a political issue out of “cancel culture,” a loosely defined term regarding someone losing a job or audience because they said something controversial or offensive to liberals, but booted Cheney for making them feel uncomfortable with her statements about Trump. Some Republicans noted the hypocrisy as well.
“Liz Cheney was canceled today for speaking her mind,” Buck said.
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in January on charges that he incited the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol with false claims of a stolen election.
Some Republicans demanded that she be stripped of her leadership post over that vote, but she beat back an initial challenge overwhelmingly, with 145 members of the conference supporting keeping her in the position.
Only 61 voted to remove her during the closed-ballot vote.
But her standing inside the party that her father once helped lead as vice president has quickly fallen because of her continued clashes with Trump.
There was no roll call vote Wednesday — McCarthy said he wanted a voice vote to show “unity” — and once the meeting was over, Cheney walked up the middle aisle past her colleagues and left the room, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Cheney’s few remaining allies in the conference bemoaned the decision to remove her and said there were was no real debate during Wednesday’s meeting and the day’s business was dispatched with quickly.
“It’s a sad day,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
Some of Cheney’s opponents disagreed and instead chose to taunt the former party leader.
“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney,” tweeted freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who was a featured speaker during the Republican National Convention last summer.
He has also been accused of being racist and a sexual predator.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.