WASHINGTON — Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of a former vice president and the GOP’s third most-powerful House leader, has been removed from her position as Republican Conference chair Wednesday following months of increasing tension within party leadership.
Behind closed doors, fellow Republican members of the House stripped Cheney of her leadership position after her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump over his alleged incitement of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and her continued outspoken criticism of the former president.
Read USA TODAY’s live coverage:Cheney ousted from House GOP leadership position in closed-door vote
“I think it is an indication of where the Republican Party is, and I think the party is in a place where we’ve got to bring it back from,” Cheney told reporters after the vote to remove her. “We cannot be dragged backward by the lies of a former president.”
Here are the takeaways from Wednesday’s vote:
Cheney: ‘Will do everything I can’ to prevent Trump from taking power again
Emerging from the vote where she was stripped of her leadership title, Cheney told reporters she was committed to opposing Trump should he seek office again.
“I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” she said. “We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language… I think it’s very important that we make sure whoever we elect will be faithful to the Constitution.”
Cheney was one of a few Republicans who outspokenly blamed Trump for the deadly riot on the Capitol Building in January, and has continued to insist that the Republican Party must move past its focus on and allegiance to the former president.
“We cannot both embrace the big lie, and embrace the Constitution,” she said.
For months before and after the 2020 presidential election, Trump spread false claims that President Joe Biden emerged victorious only due to widespread voter fraud and corruption among Democrats.
Voice vote, not recorded vote
The vote to remove Cheney from her chair position was taken by voice, which means members of the Republican Conference voted aloud to remove her as a whole, and individual votes were not recorded.
Some members expressed disappointment with the speed of the process of the vote.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told reporters after the vote that there were not the usual speeches offered prior to the vote. He called it “ironic” that the voice vote was used as a sign of unity.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., called it a “shame.”
Cheney spoke briefly before the vote to remove her, calling on her colleagues one last time to move forward from “the big lie” of Trump’s false election fraud claims. Buck said some members gave Cheney a standing ovation after her remarks.
‘I will not sit back’:Rep. Liz Cheney gives fiery speech night before removal vote
She spoke on the House floor Tuesday evening, calling Trump a “threat.”
“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans,” she said Tuesday. “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. 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.”
According to Kinzinger, Cheney had supporters in the closed room where the vote was taken, but it was unclear how many exactly. He told USA TODAY there were “people ready to go to battle for her.” So, having a voice vote rather than a roll call or ballots was a show of “fake unity,” he said.
Trump celebrates Cheney’s ouster
Trump, who has increasingly called for Cheney’s removal and for Wyoming to vote her out of office in the 2022 midterm elections, said after the vote that Cheney is a “bitter, horrible human being.”
He has endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to replace her as conference leader, and repeatedly referred to Cheney as a “warmonger.”
“Liz Cheney is bad for our Country and bad for herself,” the former president also said in a statement just prior to the vote.
What does the chair do?:Liz Cheney has been removed as House GOP Conference chair.
Cheney’s replacement will be considered Friday
Several lawmakers leaving the vote said they will reconvene Friday to decide on Cheney’s replacement.
Republican leaders have been pushing Stefanik toward the job. Stefanik became a high-profile Republican during Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2019 over his dealings in Ukraine, as she staunchly defended the former president. Trump called Stefanik a “new Republican star” as she defended him against Democrats.
She has formally announced her bid for chair and been endorsed by Republican leaders like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who view her as able to unify the caucus message.
Who is Elise Stefanik?:Congresswoman that Trump and Scalise want to replace Liz Cheney in GOP leadership
Stefanik was elected to Congress in 2014. She attended Harvard University before joining the George W. Bush administration as an aide. She also advised then-vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in 2012.
Though Stefanik has received support from Trump for the post, her voting record in Congress is less closely aligned with Trump’s priorities than Cheney’s. According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted with Trump 92.9% of the time, while Stefanik did only 77.7%.
Stefanik’s more moderate record has some Republicans on the fence about her ascending to the chair position.