Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Wednesday offered a lukewarm defense of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as House Republicans suggest that the third-ranking Republican’s ouster is in the cards.
Ernst, who is the only other Republican woman serving in elected leadership, told Politico in an interview on Wednesday that Cheney has a right to express her opposition to former President Trump. “Any elected official should stand their ground. If you feel firmly about something, you should stand your ground,” Ernst told Politico, referring to Cheney.
But Ernst quickly urged her fellow Republicans to move past the fight. “But I also believe that we need to come together as a party, recognize we have differences within the party but the goal with us should be to win seats,” Ernst told Politico.
Ernst decried House Republicans’ threats to oust Cheney as the caucus’ conference chair, saying that “they need to evaluate: Is this helping or hurting our party?” according to Politico.
“I know Liz. I appreciate Liz so much. And she feels very strongly about her stance,” Ernst told Politico. “And again, I know many Republicans that feel very strongly about their stance: pro-Trump, not for Trump, whatever it is. But at the end of the day we have work to get done.”
Ernst, who voted to acquit Trump during both of his impeachment trials, is one of the few Republican members of Congress who have recently come to Cheney’s defense as her future in GOP leadership hangs in the balance.
Days after being booed for his votes to convict Trump and narrowly avoiding being censured by the state party during the Utah Republican Party’s organizing convention last weekend, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) stood up for Cheney in a tweet on Tuesday.
Every person of conscience draws a line beyond which they will not go: Liz Cheney refuses to lie. As one of my Republican Senate colleagues said to me following my impeachment vote: “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a group that punished someone for following their conscience.”
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 4, 2021
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Sunday also defended both Romney and Cheney.
After saying she was “appalled” by the boos directed at Romney from fellow Republicans in his state, Collins told CNN that the Republican Party is “not led by just one person,” before coming to Cheney’s defense.
“Liz Cheney is a woman of strength and conscience. And she did what she felt was right,” Collins told CNN on Sunday. “And I salute her for that.”
Meanwhile, Capitol Hill’s most prominent Republicans have refused to throw their support behind Cheney.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has repeatedly refused to go to bat for Cheney amid Republicans’ outrage in the aftermath of her vote to impeach Trump.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dodged when pressed about Cheney and her tumult within the GOP.
“100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell said.