House Republicans on Wednesday ousted Rep. Liz Cheney as House GOP conference chair and set the stage for her to be replaced with someone less keen on challenging former President Donald Trump’s stolen election claims and lingering grip on the party.
Ms. Cheney was removed from the post by a voice vote.
The leadership shakeup comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tries to keep members on message and unified in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections.
“It comes down to this: A leader has to put their personal interests and biases aside when they are speaking for the Republican conference,” Rep. Tom McClintock said Wednesday on C-SPAN. “She has always been unwilling to do that.”
“It is about whether our leaders will speak for us, or they will attack us,” the California Republican said. “It is not all that complicated.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik has emerged as the most likely successor to Ms. Cheney. The New York Republican has secured support from Mr. McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Mr. Trump.
It marks a dramatic turn of events for Ms. Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Ms. Cheney, 54, survived rebellion earlier this year after she joined nine other House Republicans in voting to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday cheered on her ouster.
“The Republicans in the House of Representatives have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Ms. Cheney, meanwhile, has signaled she will not dial back her criticism of Mr. Trump or his enablers in the GOP.
In a defiant speech Tuesday on the House floor, Ms. Cheney said she will continue to fight for the soul of the party that she believes lost its way under Mr. Trump.
She said GOP leaders must stop catering to Mr. Trump and turning a blind eye to his election lies that risk “inciting further violence” and “sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”
“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” the Wyoming Republican said. “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.”
House Republicans were planning to hold a candidates forum as early as Thursday and vote for a new conference chair as early as Friday.
Ms. Stefanik is the only candidate at the moment.
That could change. There are concerns among members of the conference over her conservative credentials — including her vote against the 2017 tax cuts — and the rush to coronate her.
“I think she is one of the most liberal Republicans in the conference,” Mr. McClintock said Wednesday. “I question whether she would be an effective spokesperson for the conference, which she so often disagrees with. So I am hoping another candidate comes forward.”
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas drove home a similar message in a letter to his colleagues Tuesday.
“With all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats,” Mr. Roy wrote.
Mr. Roy suggested the party could be better off leaving the position vacant.
Mr. Roy’s reelection campaign on Wednesday sought to raise money off giving Ms. Cheney the boot, blasting out a fundraising request that said he was the “FIRST to call Cheney out on her anti-Trump and self-serving hysterics.”
“Our leadership is not doing enough to defend our conservative principles and instead is allowing petty fights over President Trump to dominate the headlines,” the fundraising email read.
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