House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy is standing by Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, as their conference has devolved into a bitter feud following President Donald Trump’s incitement of the Capitol riot and the Democratic push to impeach him, which Cheney voted for on Wednesday.
A spokesman for McCarthy told CNN the California Republican, who voted against impeachment, does not support efforts to remove Cheney as House Republican conference chair following a backlash over her vote.
At the same time, several Republicans are focusing on the role of conservatives like Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama in riling up the crowd at a rally last week before the deadly riot, with some urging that he be censured or removed from his committee spots.
The historic impeachment of the President — the first to be impeached twice by the House during his time in office — and the deadly riots at the Capitol have left congressional Republicans deeply divided. Many have argued that Trump bears responsibility for the mob violence seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, but just 10 House Republicans voted for impeachment.
The vast majority of the House Republican conference, including McCarthy, voted against impeachment and several House Republicans have been hammering Cheney for her vote, which she announced the night before.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump ally on Capitol Hill, told reporters he thinks Cheney should be ousted from her leadership position after the Wyoming Republican came out for impeachment.
“I think she’s totally wrong,” he said. “I think there should be a conference and have a second vote on that,” he added.
And some House conservatives are circulating a petition to oust Cheney from her leadership spot.
Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, said “yes” when asked by CNN if Cheney should step down as conference chair.
GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York said of Cheney and her decision to impeach, “It is extremely difficult for someone to be in a position of speaking for the conference with those thoughts.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who voted for impeachment, voiced his support for Cheney on Wednesday night, tweeting, “Liz has more support now than she did two days ago. She has gained immeasurable respect. Since the discussion is opened though, we may have to also have a discussion about who in our party fomented this, and their roles as ranking members.”
Cheney, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, on Wednesday dismissed pressure for her to step down after coming out in support of impeaching Trump.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Cheney told reporters at the Capitol before the vote. “This is a vote of conscience. It’s one where there are different views in our conference,” she added. “But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the Civil War, constitutional crisis. That’s what we need to be focused on. That’s where our efforts and attention need to be.”
Cheney, who has broken with Trump on policy before and had become increasingly outspoken in criticizing the President as his time in office drew to a close, has defended her impeachment vote by saying that certain matters transcend partisanship.
According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Cheney explained her decision in an interview with the Wyoming press corps by saying, “There are some things that must never be partisan. And the defense of our Constitution, the defense of this republic, the defense of the peaceful transfer of power, ensuring that the Constitution and the constitutional duties we all have are carried out must never be partisan.”
Consequences for conservatives who spoke at the rally?
While some Republicans are going after Cheney for her defiance of Trump, others want there to be consequences for members who they believe went too far in supporting the President’s push to overturn the election results.
Brooks has come under scrutiny for addressing the January 6 ‘Stop the Steal” rally in Washington shortly before supporters of the President stormed the Capitol.
He defended his remarks to CNN, saying, “I said no violence. That’s always been number one.” He argued that his remarks were meant to reassure supporters of the President “to ensure their freedom, to make sure that their voices are heard. They’re the governed. We listen to them,” and that he did not regret his role addressing the crowd.
The congressman, a staunch conservative and one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, was one of the first speakers at the rally, and his fiery language helped set the tone for what came next.
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” the six-term Republican shouted to the assembled protesters. “Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives. … Are you willing to do the same?”
The congressman expressed little concern at the prospect of a censure from his colleagues for his role in inciting the crowd, slamming “socialist Democrats” and saying, “I don’t know what they’re going to do. But I’m going to stand my ground.”