And at least two members have privately expressed an interest in replacing Cheney as the No. 3 Republican, according to the sources: Reps Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, two New Yorkers who have both gained popularity in the party after defeating Trump during his first Had vigorously defended impeachment.
If Cheney loses her post, it will be the latest sign that the trumpification of the Republican Party is not going to end anytime soon, even after the ex-president flew to Mar-a-Lago in Washington with a nefarious legacy. Some say the Cheney fight has already become a proxy fight for the heart and soul of the fragmented GOP.
“It has proven that it is not keeping up with the vast majority of our conference and Republicans across the country,” said freshman Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Who led the resolution calling on Cheney to step down . “A lot of people in our conference have a problem with that.”
“There are other people who are absolutely keen to fill that void, I’ll tell you,” he added to possible Cheney substitutes. “And they have broad support.”
According to interviews with over a dozen lawmakers and aides, long-simmering frustrations with Cheney – once a fast-rising star in the GOP – have increased within the GOP, particularly on its right flank. Not only are members angry at her impeachment decision, but angry that Cheney announced her position a day in advance. This will give Democrats ample time to use their testimony in all of their conversation pieces, while also providing cover for the nine other Republicans who advocated impeachment.
Some GOP circles even circulated a compilation video of Cheney’s impeachment testimony, cited many times by Democrats and the news media. As conference chairman, Cheney is responsible for the party’s messaging efforts.
However, some other senior Republicans believe that Cheney will ultimately hold on to her post, arguing that if the party is desperate to unite, most Republicans will have little appetite for creating more chaos in the conference.
And behind the scenes, Cheney did a bit of damage control: she called every corner of the conference to hear lawmakers and make sure the party would be unified going forward, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
“Removing Liz as conference chair when she did exactly what the chair told us all – to vote her conscience – sends bad news,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Republican chief on the committee foreign affairs of the house said in a statement. “And I have spoken to many members of our conference who have expressed their support for Liz and her leadership. I am confident that she will stay in her position and she has my support.”
While GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy, California, and Republican Whip Steve Scalise, La. Both said they want Cheney to stay in their jobs, McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that “questions need to be answered,” such as “Style in which things were delivered. “Members will have the opportunity to raise these complaints in camera at the conference session next week,” McCarthy added.
The GOP is far from uniform when it comes to Cheney’s future. She has her share of passionate and high profile defense lawyers in the House of Representatives, including several members of the Ranking Committee and her home state Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Who said her “strong voice and leadership will be more important than that over the next four years ever. ”
Cheney’s allies argue that leaving the leadership – and thereby aligning the party even closer to Trump – could backfire before 2022. This could also help Cheney find a unique lead if she opts for a White House offer in 2024.
“I think it would be a disaster,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) Of Cheney’s potential fall. “We have to keep an eye on the ball. We have a very good chance of taking over the majority. “
“And if we continue to give the American people a vision of internal Republican fratricide,” he added, “it is doing us no favor to convince them that we will be better able to run the House of Representatives if we can come to the medium-term presidency of. ” Joe Biden. ”
Even if Cheney manages to hold onto her leadership seat, she still faces serious questions about her long-term future in the House’s GOP, which is still predominantly for Trump. Some lawmakers believe she will never be able to run for leadership again.
In the meantime, her political problems at home are mounting: Senator Anthony Bouchard has already announced a primary challenge, although knocking out someone with a national profile as the great Cheney could be difficult. A Local County Republican Party in Wyoming unanimously agreed to reprimand Cheney last weekend for her impeachment decision.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Cheney, who has already taken a seat at the leadership table in her second term in Congress. Fifty-four-year-old Cheney even made a Senate offer last year to seek fortune in the house, wondering if she would one day face McCarthy or Scalise for first place.
But Cheney – who previously ran into colleagues – has so far rejected calls to the site. She also did not apologize for her impeachment stance, formulating it as a decision of conscience and privately telling her colleagues that she wanted to be on the right side of history and that political consequences were doomed.
“We will have these discussions within the conference. We have disagreements on a number of topics, including this one,” Cheney told Fox News on Thursday. “I expect and am confident that we will be united as a conference going forward . “
Cheney’s critics handed out a petition last week calling for a special conference to debate and vote on the resolution calling on Cheney to step down. Only 20 percent or 43 members of the House’s GOP need to sign the petition to force the meeting.
However, the support of two thirds of the conference is needed to hold an immediate vote on the resolution. Otherwise, it goes to a special committee to which some members of the management belong. And only if this committee makes a positive recommendation will the resolution be put to the vote before the full conference, which is carried out by secret ballot.
So far, the anti-Cheney crew has not yet filed the petition for a special meeting, although members are confident they have the numbers on their side.
The group also conducted a temperature review within the GOP to see if a majority supported her resignation as conference leader. Rosendale said several members fear they will retaliate if they publicly call to remove Cheney. Therefore, they are more willing to vote on a secret ballot than to sign a petition.
“It’s always a very sensitive issue when you challenge the lead,” said Rosendale. “Most members are concerned about how this vote might affect their committee assignments.”
Many of the same Republicans who supported the president’s baseless election fraud allegations, such as Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Are now leading the charges against Cheney.
This is not Cheney’s first cloud of dust with the GOP’s right wing. Last summer, members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus beat up Cheney for criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and for supporting a major opponent against Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
At the time, some hardliners were even discussing recruiting someone to challenge Cheney for the conference chair – Stefanik and Zeldin were both pending – but no one stepped forward. Cheney was then unanimously selected in November to serve in the leadership for an additional two-year term.
Some legislators doubt that Stefanik or Zeldin would also make a bid this time. Stefanik, who gave Cheney’s nomination speech in November, has told at least some of her colleagues that she doesn’t want the job. However, other GOP sources have told POLITICO that they are calling legislators early to see their support.
And then there’s Zeldin, who would face the challenging optics of booting the only woman off the GOP leadership right after a record number of Republican women were elected to Congress. Also, big corporations have frozen donations to lawmakers that challenged election results – including Zeldin and Stefanik – and given a Cheney an advantage there.
As a sign of how intense the problem has become, offices that choose to stand behind Cheney receive hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-Cheney spam emails, according to lawmakers / aides.
However, that hasn’t stopped some members from voicing their support for Cheney.
“If we can figure out where Republicans are going from here, we need Liz’s leadership,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Who works with Cheney on the Armed Forces Committee. “We have to be a big tent party or doom ourselves to irrelevance.”
Another Republican in the House said, “If I didn’t vote to indict the silliest Republican in DC, why would I vote to remove the most serious Republican in DC?”
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.