WASHINGTON – House Republicans meet behind closed doors on Capitol Hill Wednesday to make a major decision likely to highlight a deepening rift in a party hoping to retake control of Congress in 2022.
Will they keep Rep. Liz Cheney as the chamber’s third-ranking Republican, or toss her out to make way for a leader more supportive of former President Donald Trump?
Lawmakers will vote by secret ballot whether to oust Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, the result of weeks of drama within the House GOP.
The three-term congresswoman from Wyoming and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney has drawn anger from her GOP colleagues in recent weeks as her vocal pushback against Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election aggravated party leaders loyal to the former president.
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They’ve said Cheney has become a distraction from the mission to take back the House in next year’s mid-term races.
“Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote in a letter Monday to fellow Republican lawmakers.
High-ranking Republicans including Trump, are backing New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a fierce defender of the former president, to replace Cheney.If Cheney is removed Wednesday, a vote on her replacement is expected to take place at a later time.
Should the House GOP purge Cheney from leadership, it would be the latest evidence of a deep split in the Republican Party,in which some see Trump as its best path to electoral victory while some, like Cheney, say it should move beyond the former president.
Democrats hold slim majorities in the House and Senate and Republicans are eager to pick up seats in 2022 to regain majorities in both chambers.
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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, believes ousting Cheney will hurt Republican efforts to win back Congress.
“I think we’re better trying to expand the number of people who want to vote for Republicans as opposed to shrink that number,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday. “I think she’s a person of integrity who follows her conscious and speaks the truth. And I think it will do nothing but drive some people away from our party.”
House Republicans will meet at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday behind closed doors to hold a secret-ballot vote on Cheney. She can be removed by a simple majority of the 212-member Republican caucus.
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In the letter to Republican House members Monday, McCarthy wrote the party’s “driving focus would be taking back the House in 2022” and “internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team.”
Trump issued a statement last week through his Save America PAC in which he slammed Cheney as a “warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership” and threw his support behind Stefanik.
“We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First,” the former president said.
Cheney angered many of her GOP colleagues in January when she not only led a group of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge he incited the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol but also publicly called the former president out for his unfounded election fraud claims.
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In February, Cheney retained her post in the party during a tumultuous, hours-long, closed-door meeting. Her fellow Republicans voted 145-61 (with one abstention) by secret ballot to keep her as chair.
After the meeting, Cheney told reporters the vote made clear “that we’re not divided and that we’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership. It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together, and we need to go forward in a way that helps us push back the really dangerous and negative Democratic policies.”
Republicans, including Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, who chairs the Republican Study Committee within the GOP caucus, insist her removal has less to do with her ongoing skirmish with Trump and more about the distraction she had become.
“Any leader who is not focused on pushing back against the radical and dangerous Biden agenda needs to be replaced,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
Opinion:Trump Republicans have had it with Liz Cheney and the democracy she chooses to defend