The establishment wing of the GOP won a rare and dramatic victory Wednesday night when Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Lincoln Project: Liz Cheney could ‘take Matt Gaetz in a fight with one hand tied behind her back’ House Democrat cheers Gaetz’s offer to resign, help Trump with trial MORE (R-Wyo.) beat back an attempt by Donald TrumpDonald Trump Pelosi pushing Newsom to pick Schiff for next California AG: report Palm Beach town attorney says Trump should be able to live at Mar-a-Lago Trump helipad at Mar-a-Lago to soon be demolished MORE’s staunchest allies to knock her from power as retribution for voting to impeach the former president just three weeks earlier.
The 145-61 vote in favor of keeping Cheney in leadership, conducted by secret ballot, followed a marathon closed-door “family discussion” in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center, where dozens of House Republicans lined up to voice their frustrations with the Wyoming representative, the most powerful GOP woman in Congress, and called for her removal as conference chair, a role that entails leading the party’s messaging efforts.
The vote was the latest — and most dramatic — manifestation of the civil war raging within the GOP over the direction the party should take in the post-Trump era, a debate that has become increasingly contentious following the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The critics’ resolution — led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) — maintained that Cheney, by attacking the Republicans’ standard-bearer, had forfeited her right to represent the party at the leadership table.
Yet Cheney found a powerful ally in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Greene apologizes to GOP colleagues — and gets standing ovation Greene asserts Democrats ‘helping’ her with push to drop her from committees MORE (R-Calif.), who had previously voiced “concerns” over Cheney’s impeachment vote but rose to defend her in an impassioned speech during Wednesday’s meeting. McCarthy said he wanted to end the internal feud and that his leadership team should remain intact.
“People can have differences of opinion. … Liz has a right to vote her conscience. And at the end of the day we’ll be united,” McCarthy said during a break in the midst of the meeting.
It was far from the only drama of the day.
GOP lawmakers also spent a good chunk of the meeting grappling with how to handle Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a past QAnon conspiracy theorist who has come under fire for a host of violent and racist social media posts she made in recent years.
Greene expressed support for executing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Pelosi pushing Newsom to pick Schiff for next California AG: report Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power Greene apologizes to GOP colleagues — and gets standing ovation MORE (D-Calif.), endorsed the debunked notion that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a hoax, floated a bizarre conspiracy theory that the California wildfires were orchestrated by a wealthy Jewish banking family, and claimed the deadly school shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland were “false flag” events staged by anti-gun activists.
In response, Democratic leaders have demanded that McCarthy boot Greene from two top-tier committee assignments: Budget and Education. If he fails to act, Democrats have warned, they’ll move legislation to remove her themselves — a vote expected to take place on Thursday.
Responding to the Democrats’ ultimatum, McCarthy said he’d offered to shift Greene from the Education panel to the Small Business Committee, a proposal that was rejected by Democrats.
Rather than stir an outcry from Trump and the GOP base voters sympathetic to Greene, McCarthy shifted the blame toward Democrats, accusing them of overreaching in their effort to police speech made before Greene was elected.
“I made that offer to the Democrats, and they chose to do something Congress has never done,” McCarthy said.
During the meeting, Greene did apologize for certain past remarks, telling colleagues she regrets her controversial statements and embrace of QAnon, according to two sources in the meeting. But she added that she felt nothing would ever be good enough for Democrats or the media.
Some in the room stood and applauded her.
Democrats, meanwhile, lambasted Republicans for the effort to reprimand Cheney while avoiding any similar rebuke for Greene.
Greene “perpetrated QAnon lunacy,” said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power McCarthy announces no disciplinary actions against Greene Pelosi issues statement blasting ‘cowardly’ GOP leader ‘McCarthy (Q-CA)’ MORE (D-Md.).
“Yet they’re not having a meeting about her. They’re having a meeting about somebody who showed great political courage and principle,” he added, in reference to Cheney.
The Wyoming Republican, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has faced a barrage of internal criticism after she savaged Trump for his role in the deadly Capitol attack, which she deemed the greatest betrayal by a sitting president against his own country in U.S. history.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in explaining her support for impeachment. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
The backlash was immediate. Conservative Trump allies quickly lashed out, accusing Cheney of violating former President Reagan’s celebrated 11th amendment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Lincoln Project: Liz Cheney could ‘take Matt Gaetz in a fight with one hand tied behind her back’ House Democrat cheers Gaetz’s offer to resign, help Trump with trial MORE (R-Fla.) took the extraordinary step of visiting Wyoming last week to drum up opposition to his own GOP colleague in hopes of sparking a primary challenge that will eject Cheney from Congress altogether.
Wednesday’s resolution to topple her from leadership was the critics’ first formal attempt to orchestrate her downfall — an extraordinary step highlighting the degree of division dogging Republicans as they engage in a torturous routine of soul-searching following Trump’s exit from the White House.
Aside from the impeachment vote itself, supporters of the resolution had bashed Cheney for announcing her support for impeachment a day before the vote, handing Democrats potent talking points that could be used against her fellow Republicans.
“The facts here aren’t in dispute. On the eve of impeachment, the conference chair, responsible for messaging, put out a statement that the Democrats and the mainstream media used against us for the entirety of the following day,” Rosendale told his colleagues in the meeting.
“At a tough time for all of us, under fire from everywhere, she made our lives harder,” Rosendale said.
Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Gulf grows between GOP’s McConnell, McCarthy Democrats face tough odds in race for Ohio Senate seat MORE (R-Ohio), the former Freedom Caucus leader and close Trump ally, gave a passionate speech stating that Cheney is fit to serve in Congress but lost her right to sit in leadership.
Cheney “can stay on committee and serve her constituents,” he said, according to a GOP source familiar with his remarks. “But she’s not suited to serve a conference where 96 percent are on the opposite side of her.”
But Cheney, who has repeatedly clashed with Trump loyalists over her hawkish foreign policy views and her push to primary a sitting Republican, Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war McCarthy seeks shift from party’s civil war MORE (Ky.), before she retracted her endorsement of his opponent after social media posts showed him making inflammatory remarks, remained defiant during Wednesday’s gathering, telling colleagues she would not apologize for her vote to impeach Trump, sources said.
A triumphant Cheney said after the vote, “We’re not going to be divided, and we’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership.”
Nine other Republicans joined her in that historic vote to charge Trump with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection that claimed five lives, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was honored in a congressional ceremony Wednesday morning.
Numerous Cheney allies — including Republican Reps. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Capitol Police tribute turns political Trump era bows out with scorched-earth drama in divided GOP MORE (Mo.), Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war McCarthy seeks shift from party’s civil war MORE (Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war Chip Roy ‘saddened’ by Ocasio-Cortez’s experience of sexual assault, but remains firm on calling for her apology MORE (Texas) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Pelosi issues statement blasting ‘cowardly’ GOP leader ‘McCarthy (Q-CA)’ Kinzinger: GOP colleagues have thanked me for speaking out against Trump MORE (Ill.) — came to her defense during the private meeting, lauding her for standing by her principles.
“Liz Cheney is a person of character, a person of conviction, and she sets the standard for speaking out on things she believes in,” Rep. French HillJames (French) French HillRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Oversight committee member questions Treasury Department’s approval of 0M loan to shipping firm House Republicans who didn’t sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Ark.) told the room, sources said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Hillicon Valley: Raimondo wades into 230 debate | Google cuts donations to election result deniers | House GOP unveils tech plan Rep. Rodgers outlines GOP ‘Big Tech Accountability Platform’ MORE (R-Wash.), whom Cheney nudged out of the conference chair job in 2018, told the room that Cheney hasn’t supported her in the past but that this wasn’t the right time to make a change.
“It’s clear that people had a lot that they needed to get out on both sides of it. But ultimately, I think the conference came to the right decision, and I’m grateful for Kevin’s leadership on it,” Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezRepublicans rally to keep Cheney in power Here are the GOP lawmakers censured by Republicans for impeaching Trump House Republicans ask for briefing on threats keeping National Guard in DC MORE (R-Ohio), who also supported impeaching Trump, told The Hill.
“Now, I hope we can stop the circular firing squad and start moving towards trying to take the majority again,” Gonzalez said.
Updated 10:30 p.m.