Today, in a closed-door party meeting House Republicans decided in a voice vote to ost Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership position as party conference chair. With Liz Cheney deposed, House Republicans put an end to a months-long battle between the Wyoming congresswoman and members of her party due to her outspoken criticism of former President Trump and his continuous claims of fraud over the 2020 election.
Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, had previously survived an attempt to oust her as conference chair of the GOP in early February and she has been one of the loudest voices within the GOP criticizing Trump’s role on the January 6th Capitol riots, which occurred after months of Trump calling fraud and presenting lawsuits (which were largely dismissed) over the results of the 2020 election.
Trump’s actions on January 6th lead Democratic leadership to present a motion to impeach him in the House, a motion that Cheney and other 9 House Republicans supported. After that, the now-former conference hair of the GOP has repeatedly denounced the actions of Trump and has fought for moving the GOP out of the former president’s influence, which put her at odds with fellow members of the Republican Caucus.
When asked at a joint conference with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Trump’s incoming speech at this year’s CPAC, she said that while that was a decision for the organizers of the conference to make she thought the former president should not play any role in the country’s or the party’s future.
She also continued to tweet heavy criticism against both Trump and those who continue to support his arguments about the election being mired in voter fraud, with Wyoming’s representative saying that anyone who continued to say the election was stolen is “turning the back on the rule of law” in a tweet posted in early May.
While Leader McCarthy offered his initial support to her when she was initially challenged for the leadership in February, he gradually began to separate himself from Cheney, until he was recorded saying he had “lost confidence” in her ability to hold the leadership position. This move was then followed by Republican Whip Steven Scalise openly supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to replace Cheney as Conference Chair.
Cheney’s political fate was finally determined last week when McCarthy published a letter where he said the membership should expect a vote to oust the congresswoman from her position on the leadership as the caucus should be united to confront the Democrats and that these “internal conflicts” should be rapidly resolved.
With her ousting looking imminent, Cheney delivered a blistering speech on the floor of the House Tuesday night. In her address she said that the country is facing a challenge that it has never faced before, as a former president has “provoked a violent attack on this capital” and he currently “risks inciting further violence”, while she added that “adherence of the rule of law” to be the “most conservative of conservative values” and that she will not “sit back in silence” as members of her party entertain Trump’s attempts to discredit the 2020 election results.
Republicans who supported the ousting of Liz Cheney said it was a decision made for the sake of the unity of the party, with Rep. Steven Scalise (R-LA) saying “we have to unit” if the GOP wants to stop Biden’s domestic policy agenda and that her insistence on the election was keeping the focus out of the discussion.
While opponents of Cheney were defending their actions for the sake of party unity, Trump has kept posting inflammatory posts in his new blog against her and other members of the Congressional GOP for their refusal to follow him on January 6th. With him calling the congresswoman a “bitter, horrible human being” and accusing her of being a “talking point” for Democrats on a wide array of issues.
Liz Cheney is not completely alone in her party, with fellow Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) tweeting he was “proud to support her”, Sen. Jodi Ernst (R-IA) said she believes there is an “attempt to silence her” and that her ousting was “cancel culture”, and former GOP presidential candidate Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) saying her ouster will not win any additional votes for the GOP but that it would “cost us quite a few”.
A stalwart conservative
Controversial as it might be, Cheney’s ousting by itself would most likely have not a great effect on the electoral fortunes of the GOP in the 2022 midterms. However, it does give us a clear illustration of the balance of power within the post-Trump Republican Party and what are the new conditions for holding leadership positions within the conservative movement.
Unlike the famous infighting between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment in 2010, criticisms against Liz Cheney have nothing to do with her policy positions or lack of seal for defending conservative values, they are all centered on her refusal to maintain personal political loyalty towards a single individual.
In fact, her likely replacement Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) has a far less conservative score than the now fallen from grace Liz Cheney. According to Heritage Foundation, she holds a 48% lifetime conservative score, while “RINO” Liz Cheney has an 80% score, the now-ousted congresswoman even supported Trump’s policy positions more than Elise Stefanik (who Trump has endorsed for conference chair) with the former supporting Trump’s policies 92.9% of the time while the latter did the same only 77.7%.
The GOP might remain united as they oppose Biden’s policy agenda in Congress and in the court of public opinion however, the party will need to decide sooner than later what matters most: adherence to conservative values and policies or political loyalty towards the desires of a private citizen.