House GOP Set to Oust Liz Cheney 05/12 06:09
House Republicans seem ready to toss Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership
post after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump for his false
claims of election fraud and his role in fomenting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans seem ready to toss Rep. Liz Cheney from
her leadership post after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump
for his false claims of election fraud and his role in fomenting the Jan. 6
U.S. Capitol attack.
Voting behind closed doors Wednesday, lawmakers were expected to remove
Cheney, R-Wyo., from the party's No. 3 House position, a jarring blow to what's
been a fast-rising career. She is Congress' highest-ranking Republican woman
and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her demotion would
provide the latest evidence that challenging Trump can be career-threatening.
In an audacious signal that she was not backing down, Cheney took to a
nearly empty House chamber Tuesday evening to deliver an unapologetic
four-minute assault on her GOP adversaries and defense of her own position.
"Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar," she said,
adding, "I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party
down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's
crusade to undermine our democracy."
Cheney's replacement was widely expected to be Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.,
who entered the House in 2015 at age 30, then the youngest woman ever elected
to Congress. Stefanik owns a more moderate voting record than Cheney but has
evolved into a vigorous Trump defender who's echoed some of his unfounded
claims about widespread election cheating.
It was initially unclear when the separate vote on Cheney's replacement
Stripping Cheney, 54, of her leadership job would stand as a striking,
perhaps historic moment for the GOP.
One of the nation's two major parties was in effect declaring an
extraordinary admission requirement to its highest ranks: fealty to, or at
least silence about, Trump's lie that he lost his November reelection bid due
to widespread fraud. In states around the country, officials and judges of both
parties found no evidence to support Trump's claims that extensive illegalities
caused his defeat.
It's been clear that Cheney's days in leadership were numbered as House
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., No. 2 leader Steve Scalise, R-La.,
joined Trump and other Republicans from across the party's spectrum aligned
Critics said Cheney's offense wasn't her views on Trump but her persistence
in publicly expressing them, undermining the unity they want party leaders to
display as they message in advance of next year's elections, when they hope to
win House control.
"It's not about right or wrong. It's about the focus" of House Republicans,
Scalise said Tuesday.
Many Republicans also agree with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who's said the
allegiance many GOP voters have to Trump is so intense that the party can't
succeed without him.
A small number of Republicans have spoken out against removing Cheney.
"It will do nothing but drive some people away from our party," said Sen.
Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee and one who has
clashed often with Trump.
Seemingly conceding that the numbers were against her, Cheney made no
discernible effort to cement support ahead of Wednesday's vote, several
Rather, she all but erected billboards advertising her clash with Trump,
declaring in a Washington Post column last week, "The Republican Party is at a
turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth
and fidelity to the Constitution."
Cheney has told Republicans she intends to remain in Congress and seek
reelection next year in her solidly pro-Trump state. The former president has
said he'll find a GOP primary challenger to oppose her.
Cheney arrived in Congress in 2017 with a well-known brand as an old-school
conservative, favoring tax cuts, energy development and an assertive use of
U.S. power abroad. By November 2018 she was elected to her current leadership
job unopposed and seemed on an ambitious pathway, potentially including runs at
becoming speaker, senator or even president.
She occasionally disagreed with Trump during his presidency over issues like
his withdrawal from Syria and attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci over the pandemic.
But her career hit turbulence in January once she became one of 10 House
Republicans to back his second impeachment for inciting his supporters' deadly
Capitol assault of Jan. 6. The Senate acquitted him.
In a memorable statement before the House impeachment vote, Cheney said:
"The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and
lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing."
Her words -- and her pre-vote announcement, which allowed Democrats to cite
her opposition during the debate -- infuriated many House conservatives.
She withstood a February effort by conservatives to boot her from leadership
in a 145-61 secret ballot, but a McCarthy speech on her behalf is credited with
saving her. That wasn't expected to happen this time.
Since then, she's stood by her views, in one noteworthy incident while
McCarthy stood awkwardly nearby at a news conference.
Stefanik also arrived in Congress with sterling GOP establishment
credentials. A Harvard graduate, she worked in President George W. Bush's White
House and for the campaign of the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee,
Wisconsin Rep. and later Speaker Paul Ryan.
Her district, bordering Canada and Vermont, voted twice for Barack Obama and
then twice for Trump in the past four presidential elections. She opposed
Trump's trademark 2017 tax cut and his efforts to unilaterally spend billions
on his southwestern border wall.
Stefanik grabbed center stage as a fierce Trump defender in 2019 as the
House impeached him over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to produce damaging
information about Joe Biden, his Democratic rival. Senate acquittal followed.
While Stefanik has won adoration from Trump, some of Washington's
hardest-right conservatives have remained suspicious of her moderate record.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus,
wrote colleagues Tuesday chastising "Republicans who campaign as Republicans
but then vote for and advance the Democrats' agenda once sworn in."
No Stefanik challenger has yet emerged, and other conservatives like Scalise
and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are in her camp.
"We have a great deal of support from the Freedom Caucus and others," she