McCarthy Leaves Door Open To Cheney Critics As GOP Forms Circular Firing Squad

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) listens to House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a news conference following a caucus meeting at the U.S. Capito... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) listens to House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a news conference following a caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 25, 2021 11:34 a.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is doing little to shield Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from the drumbeat of Republican retribution for her impeachment vote. 

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection and for his phone call with Georgia of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and the highest-ranking Republican to vote yes.

McCarthy tried to have it both ways during a Sunday appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s “Full Court Press,” giving Cheney tepid support while agreeing that she has “a lot of questions to answer.” 

“Look, I support her, but I also have concerns,” he said. “She took a position as a number three member in conference, she never told me ahead of time.”

“She can have a difference of opinion, but the one thing if we’re going to lead within the conference, we should work together on that as a whole conference because we’re representative of that conference,” he continued. “So I support her, but I do think she has a lot of questions she has to answer to the conference.”

If any of Cheney’s critics were looking for a sign that there’d be retribution for their pummeling of a peer, they didn’t get it there. 

A day later, a senior editor at The Federalist published a piece titled “Liz Cheney Should Step Away From Leadership For The Sake Of GOP Voters.”

“It was expected for the Democrats to rush to judgment in the heat of the moment without even pretending to investigate the facts,” Mollie Hemingway wrote in a Monday piece. “For a purported leader of the Republican conference, it’s an embarrassment and a scandal.”

She also criticizes Cheney’s funding of Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-KY) primary challenger last summer, and calls her a “neoconservative” whose views are out of touch.

She urges Republicans to find a conference chair who’s more of a “team player,” calling leaving Cheney in her current position “negligence.”

Some ambitious House members are jockeying for position as Cheney’s fortunes falter. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who shared that Federalist piece on Twitter, is traveling to Wyoming Tuesday to speak out against her impeachment vote. 

While he maintains that he is not seeking her leadership position, he sure has positioned himself at the forefront of the push to boot her out of it. 

Donald Trump Jr. eagerly asked on Twitter if he could remotely participate in Gaetz’s Wyoming event.

A petition circled last week from the rightwing Freedom Caucus calling for a meeting so they can vote on a resolution to demand Cheney step down. She has also already drawn a primary challenger. 

Cheney has so far remained unbowed, telling reporters that she’s “not going anywhere” and calling her yes vote one of “conscience.” 

While her detractors are many, she’s not without support in the caucus. 

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), for one, tweeted that Cheney had a “hell of a lot more backbone than most” and pledged to keep supporting her in her leadership role.

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