Weeks of drama over the GOP backlash that Rep. Liz Cheney (R) was receiving for refusing to endorse former President Trump’s lies about the election came to a head in a brief, private House Republican conference meeting Wednesday during which she was removed from GOP leadership.
Within 15 minutes of when the meeting started, Cheney was voted out of her position as Republican Conference Chair, the third-ranking role.
The ouster was performed via a voice vote, and a request that it be followed up with a recorded vote was not accepted, members told reporters after the meeting.
“The vote was overwhelming,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said.
“You can’t have a conference chair who recites Democratic talking points,” Jordan added.
Before the vote, Cheney made remarks to the conference, during which she told her colleagues that if they “want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person,” according PunchBowl News.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke briefly to the conference as well, telling them that it was time for them to be “unified,” according to the account Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) — a Cheney supporter — gave to reporters after the meeting.
After the voice vote, Cheney came out to the stakeout cameras to answer a few questions as well.
“The nation needs a strong Republican Party, the nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that,” she said.
She also vowed to do “everything” she could “to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office”
Her removal marks an inflection point for the party. Not only has loyalty to Trump reemerged as a litmus test for leading the Republican Party, it may be the only one.
A vote on who will replace Cheney in conference leadership will happen on Friday. The lead contender — and perhaps the only contender — is Rep. Elise Stefanik, a young New York representative. She once had a reputation as a moderate — she even at one point co-chaired the House Republican centrist group the Tuesday Group — but has burnished her credentials as a strident Trump defender, a turn she took during the first impeachment proceeding.
Some conservatives in the conference are grousing that she is not far enough right to lead them. But it remains to be seen whether they can mount a challenge to her ascent, which has been endorsed by Trump himself.
“You now have President Trump’s support, you have Kevin McCarthy’s support, you have Steve Scalise’s support,” Rep. Kevin Buck (R-CO) — a conservative who did not support the move to remove Cheney — told reporters. “I don’t think there will be anybody that wants to risk a future chairmanship or a future role in the party to take on Elise Stefanik, which I think is terribly unfortunate.”