Republicans in the United States voted to remove a leading senator, Liz Cheney, from her leadership position due to her criticism of former President Donald Trump.
The Wyoming senator, the daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney, has been the House’s third-ranking member since 2019.
On Tuesday, she said that her party could not speak for reality if it supported Mr. Trump’s misleading statement that he won the 2020 election.
House Republicans will almost certainly replace her this month with a Trump supporter.
The step is seen as evidence that Mr. Trump’s hold over the Republican Party is deeper than ever six months since he lost the presidency.
What happened at the vote?
On Wednesday morning, House Republicans determined Ms. Cheney’s fate in less than 20 minutes behind closed doors.
Colleagues allegedly praised her leadership tenure, but Ms. Cheney attracted boos during the session when she said, “We cannot let the former president pull us down and make us complicit in his attempts to unravel our democracy.”
The ballot was not counted, but lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to remove Ms. Cheney from her position by voice vote.
She assured reporters immediately after her dismissal, “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again comes anywhere near the Oval Office.”
Ms. Cheney has consistently chastised Mr. Trump for his baseless allegations that the 2020 election was taken from him.
Republican colleagues complain she is rehashing the past because they want to move forward and reflect on the next race.
In response to Ms. Cheney’s expulsion from the presidency, Mr. Trump issued a statement calling her a “bitter, horrible human being” and a “talking point for Democrats.”
In the midst of the Republican feud, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House, praised Ms. Cheney as “a leader of immense strength, loyalty, and honor.”
Why was Cheney in trouble?
Her political demise comes from the wake of the Capitol protests on January 6, when Trump backers raided the Capitol.
She was one of ten members of her party who voted with Democrats a few days later to impeach the then-president for incitement of insurgency. In the Republican-controlled Senate, he was convicted.
Accusing her of betraying the party, rank-and-file House Republicans voted a month later to remove Ms. Cheney from her position as party conference leader.
However, the party’s lower chamber chairman, Kevin McCarthy, told peers not to exclude her at the moment. She won the secret ballot by a vote of 145 to 61. She has continued to chastise Mr. Trump since then.
The final straw for many of her party colleagues seems to have been her anti-Trump rant in a Washington Post op-ed last week. Following the release of the study, Mr. McCarthy and his colleague, Republican whip Steve Scalise, started taking measures to depose Ms. Cheney.
Mr. McCarthy was reportedly caught on camera telling a Fox News host: “I’m done with her. You know, I’ve lost faith.”
A counterpoint to Trumpism
Liz Cheney was ten years old when the first Star Wars movie was out. Forty-four years later, she’s Obi-Wan Kenobi to Donald Trump’s Darth Vader, warning him that if he kills her, she’ll become more dominant than he can imagine.
The first portion was completed with her removal from House Republican leadership on Wednesday morning. It is now up to Ms. Cheney to create an anti-Trump campaign that will make the second part a possibility.
Unlike several other Republican officeholders who opposed Mr. Trump and then disappeared into the relative anonymity of corporate boards, small book deals, and rare talk show shows, Ms. Cheney is preparing an aggressive initiative to help candidates who steer clear of Mr. Trump and his ongoing plans to rehash and re-litigate his 2020 electoral loss.
She is putting herself forward as a reliably conservative counterpoint to Trumpism, and she has the congressional voting record to back that up.
For the time being, Republicans – at least in the House of Representatives – seem to value loyalty to Mr. Trump over moral purity. Ms. Cheney is banking her political career on the fact that this will not always be the case.
Who could replace her?
The latest favorite to replace Ms. Cheney is Elise Stefanik, a four-term congresswoman from upstate New York.
Ms. Stefanik expressed her interest in a letter to colleagues shortly after the vote to oust Ms. Cheney, promising to “unify our message as a team and secure the mandate in 2022.”
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Formerly an opponent of Mr. Trump, the 36-year-old has been one of his most ardent supporters in recent years.
On Monday, he rewarded her support with an endorsement.
However, Ms. Stefanik is not universally supported within the party, with some claiming that her voting record in the House is too liberal.
In a memo to colleagues on Tuesday, Chip Roy, a member of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, stated his opposition to Ms. Stefanik.
“Let us pause to consider the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokeswoman whose voting record reflects most of what contributed to the 2018 ass-kicking we got from Democrats,” Texas Rep. Ted Poe wrote.
What next for Cheney?
She is now battling for her political survival in her home district, where her party has already voted to censure her for voting to impeach Mr. Trump at the state level.
At least five Republicans have registered to run against her in 2022, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Nine of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump face primary challengers from within their own party to unseat them from Congress next year.
Ms. Cheney termed her expulsion “the opening salvo” in a campaign to “return our party to substance and values” in an interview with NBC News shortly after the vote.
“Bring it on,” she says of the key obstacles she faces in Wyoming.