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Liz Cheney vote tests Republican Party

Wednesday’s confidence vote on the third-ranking U.S. House Republican points to wariness over appearing out of touch with Trump supporters


Liz Cheney AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Liz Cheney vote tests Republican Party

By most metrics Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., boasts impeccable conservative credentials: Her father served as vice president in a Republican administration, and she’s maintained a highly conservative voting record since her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016.

But Cheney, who since 2018 has served as the chair of the House Republican Conference, is now at odds with her own party—so much so that Republicans demoted her as the third highest ranking Republican on Wednesday.

The intraparty dispute points to a larger conflict over Republican leaders’ loyalty to former President Donald Trump and his supporters. While it’s too early to know what Cheney’s ouster could portend for 2024, in the short term it seems to signal that Republicans are wary of appearing out of lockstep with Trump ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when they hope to win back the majority.

Cheney lost her leadership position Wednesday during a voice vote that took place behind closed doors. House Republicans will have to hold another vote soon to replace her as conference chair.

If the situation conjures déjà vu, that’s because it’s a repeat of a no-confidence vote Cheney faced in February after she joined nine other House Republicans in voting for the impeachment of President Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. That time, Cheney triumphed over her critics. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., supported his deputy, arguing that the Republican Party “is a very big tent.” The vote fell 145-61.

Then the tide shifted.

McCarthy, who also had criticized the president over the riot, about-faced. He flew to Mar-a-Lago to smooth things over, and his relationship with Trump improved.

Cheney’s soured: The former president repeatedly slammed the congresswoman in statements.

Cheney doubled down. In particular, she pushed back on Trump’s ongoing claims that he won the 2020 presidential election.

On May 3, she tweeted, “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.”

After that, McCarthy went on Fox & Friends and denied the intraparty fight had anything to do with Cheney’s impeachment vote but hinted that her job was in jeopardy.

The other House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment have so far not faced similar backlash, nor have their fundraising numbers suffered. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., even tapped one of the lawmakers, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., to serve as an assistant party whip in January. The real test will come in their individual districts in the 2022 midterms, and primary challengers have already cropped up. But with the entire party to consider, McCarthy likely won’t risk losing Republican House seats by wading into the primaries.

Cheney’s fall from grace seemingly hinged on her position in leadership and the continuing fallout of Trump’s election fraud claims.

As conference chair and like all members of party leadership, one of Cheney’s responsibilities is to fundraise on behalf of Republicans in general. Cheney ticked that box: Her committees transferred $1.8 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2020. Only McCarthy and Scalise generated more.

The conference chair is also responsible for the party’s external communication and messaging. Here was the real rub. McCarthy told Fox & Friends that members were “concerned about [Cheney’s] ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message.”

Cheney’s position on election fraud puts her at odds with other Republicans. Lawmakers may or may not privately believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen, but they are unwilling to countenance those who vocally contradict Trump regarding President Joe Biden’s victory.

A few Republicans have spoken in defense of Cheney: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Cheney was “saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection” and called the dispute “not good for the future of this country.” Sen Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called the effort to silence Cheney a form of “cancel culture” in the Republican Party.


Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Meanwhile, Trump and McCarthy endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to succeed Cheney as Republican conference chair. “Elise is a tough and smart communicator!” Trump said in a statement.

Stefanik’s own bullishness on Trump is new.

She came into Congress in 2015 as a moderate Republican and voted accordingly. While Cheney voted 93 percent of the time with Trump, Stefanik sided with the former president only 78 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Heritage Action for America scored Cheney at 82 percent, while scoring Stefanik at only 56 percent. The American Conservative Union gave Cheney a 78 percent lifetime rating. Stefanik earned a 44 percent lifetime rating.

Early in Trump’s tenure, Stefanik opposed some of his signature policies, including his push to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to rework NATO. She also co-sponsored the Democrats’ Equality Act with its crushing implications for religious freedom.

Later, Stefanik rebranded: During Trump’s first impeachment she robustly defended him. The move boosted her to stardom and made her a top fundraiser.

That hasn’t stopped some conservatives from questioning her voting record, including the organization FreedomWorks and certain members of the House Freedom Caucus.

But Stefanik is unlikely to give Republicans headaches over the election fraud controversy. In an interview last Thursday on Steve Bannon’s podcast, Stefanik lent support to election fraud concerns and said if elected to House leadership she would “run with support from [Trump] and his coalition of voters.”

As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear when Republicans would vote to fill Cheney’s former position.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate, which has similar divides on election fraud claims and impeachment, has avoided a similar party squabble, at least in public.

“The House is more quickly responsive to current politics,” Ryan Burge, an associate professor of politics at Eastern Illinois University, told WORLD. In contrast to the House’s rapid two-year election cycle, Burge noted, the Senate’s six-year election cycle provides more insulation from rapid electoral shifts: “The old-school Republicans will dominate the Senate for at least another decade or two because they will not step down and it’s really hard to unseat an incumbent.”

Political pundits speculate that the move points to McCarthy’s own ambitions to claim the speaker’s gavel once Republicans win control of the House. For that, he needs the approval of the Republican base—and for that, he’ll need Trump’s support.

By demoting Liz Cheney, he seems likely to get both.

—WORLD has updated this story to reflect Wednesday’s vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney as the House Republican Conference chair.


Harvest Prude

Harvest is a former political reporter for WORLD’s Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate.

@HarvestPrude

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AlanE

Here's one to ponder. One of the most-frequently heard defenses of Donald Trump has been, "He fights." Funny, but that defense doesn't seem to be very uniformly applied.

Salty1AlanE

Yes, and what exactly was Cheney fighting for? Everything that Christians stand against. The election of Biden has definitely hurt the Christian cause!

Shelley Tuttle

Yes. Liz Cheney had to go. The Republican party needs cohesion right now in order to be one phalanx against the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" that are being hurled at the foundational values a good bunch of us hold dear. There is no need to compromise; when Cheney came out with her impeachment vote, she was stabbing the hearts of many. And, I believe it isn't even about Trump, primarily. It's about what he stood for: the reality about the leftist media, Big Tech, academia, and Hollywood ripping America apart. McCarthy and Kinzinger, too, have been at odds with the biblically-principled conservatism the Republicans have been unable to inculcate into the party for years because of those who want to "reach across the table." Well . . . we know who's not willing to reach across the table, don't we? I couldn't wait to hear the vote on Cheney because finally we have some movement in the right direction. By the way, it is interesting how Kinzinger was showcased in an article in "The Atlantic," in which Emma Green declares Adam Kinzinger a born-again Christian who was for impeachment. Is she trying to say that by his going against the grain that he's the real voice of reason in the party? Many born-again Christians think differently and will not give in to the namby-pamby naysayers. I pray the truly enlightened will continue to speak and prove W. B. Yeat's "prophecy not applicable: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/01/adam-kinzinger-voting-impeachment-christian/617848/?fbclid=IwAR3RulCzxwwGenXAyx15SE1Kt5a6psUUH8QSuGJLZz5WcGbLY70ELXtmUTQ

FIMIKIShelley Tuttle

I saw that article too, and was impressed. Kinzinger has practically committed political suicide. There's no home for him in the Democratic party because they will not accommodate the conservative policies he believes best for the nation, but no one in the Republican electorate wants to hear what he has to say about Trump's behavior or the dark turn the GOP has taken in recent years. There's no cold calculous behind his actions, simply conviction.

All the things you listed that Trump stands for are actually things he stands against. Have you considered that if we define ourselves by the things we oppose, we are in fact letting those things dictate our actions and behavior instead of guiding ourselves by solid principles first and foremost? Trump was a fantastic anti-leftist, but in some crucial areas that single-minded devotion to stopping the advance of the left led him to abandon conservative (and, I would argue, Christian) principles.

Salty1FIMIKI

I suppose you think Biden is better than Trump in supporting the Christian cause. The notion that Trump is against Christian principles makes me wonder what “Christian principles “ you follow.

FIMIKISalty1

I'm certainly not going to be a Biden apologist! But we should always be ready to hold our leaders - even the ones we voted for- accountable for their actions. We Christians of all people ought to know the power of the tongue and the destructive potential of reckless speech. Likewise as conservatives who uphold the principle of limited government and individual freedom, we know that such things can only persist as long as a nation has the moral fiber necessary to exercise these freedoms responsibly or it will either collapse into anarchy or a tyranny will emerge and revoke those freedoms. I fear that Trump's tendency for inflammatory and divisive rhetoric (which reached its climax in the stop-the-steal campaign) has done great harm to the idea of ordered liberty and the witness of the church. There are other areas in which he deviated from conventional conservative principles, but they are secondary compared to this.

Salty1FIMIKI

Yes, it will be interesting how God will define reckless speech on judgment day. Is reckless speech going along with a false narrative attacking the very individual that God chose to protect the Christian cause? Is reckless speech going along with a false narrative that the election was legitimate when there was clear evidence suggesting much fraud? When you go along with the left you are helping them bring down our country - especially if you echo their talking points.

FIMIKISalty1

Yes, God alone is judge and is perfect in knowledge and truth. We are frail and limited in our perception and understanding, but have His sacred word to guide us. The wonderful thing about our faith is that there is no need to worry about weather we are going along with the left or the right, or if our talking points help one or the other. God is not for the right or the left, America or China. He is for Himself. His is the "upside-down" kingdom, where His foolishness is greater than man's wisdom, where the meek are blessed, where the weak are strong. The hearts of rulers are like water in his hands, and he can and will use anyone to achieve his ends. Was Trump a protector for Christians, or a test for Christians? Is our trust and hope in our sovereign God, or a prince of the earth who will "go out before us, and fight our battles"? Is our greatest desire the purity and unity of the Church, or the prosperity and security of our country?

Orthodox Christianity is increasingly despised by the world around us. Will we respond as the world expects us to - with anger, fear, and a grasping for power - or with humility, courage, love, and joy knowing that our home was not of this world anyway? I too long for a time where we could worship freely and practice our faith without fear of retaliation and we were respected in the public square, but could it be that image of America has become an idol in our hearts that's caused us to forget who we really are from an eternal perspective?

My Two Cents

Cheney voted 93% of the time with Trump. Stefanik voted 78% of the time. Cheney gets a higher “conservative” rating from several sources. So, what is the difference between these two women? Ah! The claim of election rigging. If Trump accomplished anything in office, he divided the Republican party, and emboldened the Democrats. And he isn’t the president, yet he still has a cultish influence over his disciples. The GOP doesn’t allow any dissenting opinion within its ranks. In that way they are just like the Democrats that they malign: to be a party member, we tell you what to think and how to think it.

austinbeartuxMy Two Cents

2 Cents:
Another difference between the two that may help explain why Republicans soured on Cheney. Of the 211 Republicans in the House, Cheney was one of the 10 who voted to impeach him (2nd impeachment). That showed that she didn't represent the majority of House Republicans. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_impeachment_trial_of_Donald_Trump)

What's your source for the 93% vs 78%? I'd like to study it. Thanks in advance.

Andy Knudsenaustinbeartux

The 93% and 78% voting with Trump comes from 538:
Rep. Cheney: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/liz-cheney/
Rep. Stefanik: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/elise-stefanik/

My Two Centsaustinbeartux

It's from the article above, third paragraph under the picture of McCarthy. I don't agree with her vote to impeach Trump, but not for the reasons cited by the republicans. I just thought it was a waste of time. Still, as a House Representative she is ideally supposed to represent her constituents from Wyoming. The GOP is bent on creating a lock-step, arm in arm dance for the good of the "party."

Salty1My Two Cents

You need a unified party to be an effective party. I was a fan of the Cheney’s but this gal made a big mistake in voting against Trump when there was no basis to vote against the man. If she isn’t smart enough to see the stolen election then yes she should go - Cheney or no Cheney.

Tom HanrahanSalty1

YES, a party needs to be unified to be effective. But unity cannot come with delusions like "stolen election"; it sure ain't Cheney who needs to be critiqued for not being smart on that issue.

Salty1Tom Hanrahan

Many here have presented evidence showing the election was stolen. I think the debate is not if it was stolen but by how much. The breaking of state laws and constitutions regarding the election in battleground states allowing Biden to win does bring into question the fairness of the vote at a minimum. Allowing the harvesting of ballots by organizations favoring Biden which were funded by Zuckerburg and other Big Tech giants made a mockery of our system. The transfer of filled out ballots by mail from NY to PA does bring the Biden “win” in PA into serious question. The one sided election process where Republicans were kicked out of the facilities in Detroit does bring the Michigan vote into question. You cannot let one party control control the election process and assume everything was above board when there were many witnesses that observed much cheating.

But I know there are real smart people who believe everything written by the left and they don’t believe the election was stolen. They believe all social media sites and won’t look at the evidence supporting the election fraud . Not much you can do to convince these people of the massive voter fraud that happened.

FIMIKIaustinbeartux

Some of the most conservative members of congress are also the most outspoken against Trump. Here's a breakdown of how GOP activists rank the conservatism of senators vs how they're ranked by more objective metrics. washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/03/romney-cheney-were-once-quintessential-conservative-names-then-conservative-changed/

"Cult" is a harsh word. But I've struggled to understand why conservatives who support Trump for his policies turn so viciously against their own when one dares critique him for his behavior. What is it about Trump that puts him above criticism? Isn't that a dangerous place to find ourselves?

Salty1FIMIKI

You read the Washington Post and believe what they say about conservatives? That tells me all I need to know!

FIMIKISalty1

Unless we diversify our sources we're likely to get trapped in an echo chamber of parochial thought. I read WaPo and Epoch Times and am pretty skeptical of both, but ultimately try to judge their pieces on the merit of their arguments. World is about the only publication I trust implicitly these days.

Salty1FIMIKI

When you see one side of the press blatantly lying to you about Russian collusion, which is shown to be a witch hunt by the left after the real evidence comes out, then you are a fool to trust that media source. The leftist MSM is a propaganda news outlet which is used to manipulate people so the idea that there is some kind of parity between the news sources is a real joke. If you believe that World is an unbiased news source, then I am saddened to inform you that they are oftentimes wrong, like when they treated George Floyd like a giant in the faith when he was high on fentanyl which was a key factor in his death.

Tom HanrahanSalty1

Famiki's point is an excellent one, which instead of addressing, you essentially endorsed; someone who only trusts the "rightest" media sources who only produce news in favor of their view, very biased and not truthful, results in silly condemnation of all others, while being blind to the untruths of one's own favorite sources.... and thus a conversation doesn't come close to edifying others. How about a little more "not thinking to highly of one's own opinion", which means less proclamative certainty on some matters.
Thanks famiki.

Salty1Tom Hanrahan

Tom, I am aware of many news sources, but having listened to the propaganda for many years, I am careful not to entertain lies and clear propaganda. Now I will venture out into this make believe world sometimes to see the latest narrative they are spinning but I take it with a grain of salt. It is not to say there isn’t some news that may speak some truth on the left, but the vast majority discussing the latest political issues is pure junk. I follow news like some people follow sports, so I don’t put up a false humility like we can’t know anything, because I do follow it enough to know what is happening.
I know a lot of Christians like you who believe that the left news is equivalent to the right. This is a lie for the left is clearly fighting anything Christian!