The House GOP Conference voted on Wednesday morning to boot Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her position as conference chairwoman, the number three position in the party’s leadership. The voice vote, held during a private meeting in the basement of the Capitol, was the second attempt to remove Cheney for her insufficient loyalty to former President Donald Trump this year. Cheney survived the first vote, in February, by a wide margin.
What changed between February and May? Cheney lost the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who continues to court Trump and has visited the former president’s home in Florida. The voice vote means that there will be no written record of who voted for or against Cheney’s removal.
A vote to replace Cheney has not been set, but the job is expected to go to New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is running unopposed for the gig. Stefanik, who was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she took office in 2015, has played a crucial role in recruiting and supporting female candidates for the GOP. A record number of Republican women were elected last year, many with the help of Stefanik’s PAC.
Stefanik, who worked in George W. Bush’s White House before running for Congress and was once a critic of Trump’s, transformed into an loyal foot soldier for the president in recent years. Less than a week ago, the Congresswoman appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast, where she offered support for an audit of the Arizona election results.
Stefanik, though, will face her own headwinds. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas issued a memo cautioning against elevating Stefanik to the role, which is responsible for leading the party’s messaging. In his letter Roy warns of “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.”
Cheney, for her part, has spent the last several days crafting the messaging around her defenestration, and that message is that Republicans are “canceling” her for speaking out against Trump. Last night, Cheney delivered a speech defending her actions during a Freedom Caucus-organized gripe fest about “cancel culture” on the House floor. “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed,” Cheney said.
Freedom only survives if we protect it. We must speak the truth. The election was not stolen. America has not failed. pic.twitter.com/H4KrMxkPdy
— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) May 12, 2021
“Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney 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.”
And so have Democrats who may see Cheney’s ouster as a chance to drive a wedge between those Republicans still bear hugging Trump and those ready to put the former president and all that he represents behind them. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), have picked up the theme, which is reportedly being driven by Nancy Pelosi.
“I think the removal of Liz Cheney is going to be a black mark on the Republican Party for a long time to come,” Hoyer, Pelosi’s number two, said Tuesday. “She told the truth. She keeps telling the truth, they can’t take the truth because Donald Trump is not a friend of the truth.”