content-header__row content-header__hed” data-testid=”ContentHeaderHed”>The GOP’s Liz Cheney Purge May Be Upon UsRepublican lawmakers reportedly think a second vote to oust Cheney from her leadership position is in the cards—and may look a lot different without Kevin McCarthy’s support.
May 3, 2021
Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn talk before the president's address to the joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021.by Caroline Brehman – Pool/Getty Images
While it might not seem like flame-throwing for Liz Cheney to call Kevin McCarthy—along with Mitch McConnell—the leader of the Republican party, her comments this weekend went a long way toward exacerbating strife within the caucus, where lawmakers are reportedly eager to oust Cheney from her leadership position—and are increasingly vocal about doing so. “It’s at a boiling point,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “I have to imagine if she doesn’t resign there will be a new vote in the near future, and the result will be lopsided in the opposite direction of what it was before.”
The first vote to oust Cheney from her leadership position was held in February via secret ballot after Cheney voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. Cheney was overwhelmingly safe, according to CNN; 145 members voted to let her keep her position as House Republican Conference chair, and 61 voted to remove her. Afterward, Cheney told Republicans, “I won’t apologize for my vote.” She similarly doubled down on Monday afternoon, tweeting, “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
The Republican lawmaker who spoke to The Hill insisted that the groundswell against her “isn’t about Liz Cheney wanting to impeach Donald Trump,” but rather “Cheney being completely out of synch with the majority of our conference.” But it’s worth noting that Cheney’s outspoken criticism of the former president makes her more “out of synch” than almost anything else with today’s GOP, where loyalty to Trump is still largely a prerequisite. That’s especially true for the House Minority Speaker, who publicly backed Cheney the first time her leadership role was called into question but is seen as unlikely to do so again if a second vote is held, according to Politico. “The larger question is why McCarthy ever stuck his neck out for her in the first place—he’s the reason she’s still in that position,” one GOP insider told The Hill.
McCarthy himself has indicated that the tide has turned by declining to give Cheney a moderating role at a recent GOP retreat in Orlando, “even as he allowed others in leadership to head up panels,” Politico Playbook reported, and dodging the question of whether she was still a “good fit” for his leadership team. “That’s a question for the conference,” McCarthy told reporters, as he took aim at Cheney for “not being productive” by “talking about something else”—i.e. condemning Trump’s role in the Capitol riot and saying the party should move on—at “a retreat that’s focused on policy.” The highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress apparently continued to rub her fellow Republicans the wrong way at the Orlando confab: during a press conference, she broke with McCarthy over the scope of a commission examining the January 6 attack. It was also there that she said McCarthy and McConnell were the central party leaders, not Trump. Later that day, Cheney said she wasn’t ruling out a future presidential bid herself. “Members of all stripes were really upset she trampled all over the messaging and unity we otherwise had at the retreat,” one top House Republican, who backed Cheney in the last vote, told CNN, calling a second secret ballot “inevitable.”
Cheney still has GOP allies however, including Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who suggested the coordinated attempt to oust her is a lingering symptom of Trumpism. “If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit,” Gonzalez, who also voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill. The attacks on Cheney seem to be part of a widespread response to anyone unwilling to keep Trump’s Big Lie alive, even six months after the election loss that Trump continues to spread lies about. Cheney is just one of several GOP officials who have come under fire for speaking out against Trump. Several local Republicans have either resigned or been forced to step down from their positions, the Washington Post reports. And in Utah this weekend, Senator Mitt Romney narrowly circumvented a motion to censure by GOP state delegates seeking to punish him for voting to impeach Trump, a move that the author of the resolution claimed “hurt the constitution and hurt the party.”
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