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House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney

A group of conservative lawmakers are plotting to oust House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Liz Cheney gets 2022 primary challenger after voting to impeach Trump The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (Wyo.) from her leadership role, citing issues with her announcement that she would vote to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE for inciting last week's riot at the Capitol.

GOP lawmakers behind the effort, which are largely made up of members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, have begun circulating a petition led by Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday to remove Cheney — who is the highest-ranking Republican woman in leadership — from her role. 

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day McCarthy won't back effort to oust Cheney MORE (R-Ohio), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus and a top Trump ally, took aim at Cheney on Wednesday morning ahead of the vote, arguing her views don’t reflect the majority of the House GOP conference. 

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“We ought to have a second vote,” Jordan told reporters, according to a Capitol Hill pool report. "The conference ought to vote on that."

Rosendale accused Cheney of “weakening our conference at a key moment for personal political gain and is unfit to lead.”

Biggs told Fox News on Tuesday that “the reality is she’s not representing the conference; she’s not representing the Republican ideals.” 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration Biden urges Americans to join together in appeal for unity MORE (R-Calif.) opted not to defend Cheney when asked multiple times to comment on the matter or whether he would back the effort to have her removed as the third in line in GOP leadership.

Cheney, whose position entails leading the conference’s messaging efforts, dismissed the notion that she would be ousted from her role. 

“I'm not going anywhere. This is a vote of conscience. It's one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the civil war, constitutional crisis,” she said. “That's what we need to be focused on. That's where our efforts and attention need to be."

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Cheney was the second Republican lawmaker to announce her support of impeachment, asserting Tuesday that she feels the president failed to uphold his oath to the Constitution and misled his supporters with his claims the election was "stolen." She condemned Trump for calling on his supporters to march to the Capitol.

“None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement. 

While Cheney faces calls from a sizable number of conservatives to step down from her leadership position, some who don’t agree with her stance said they feel it would further divide the party when it needs unification most. 

“Many in our conference are frustrated because she lectured us all last week about what a terrible decision it would be to vote to reject [Electoral College results] what how dangerous it was for our constitution, that we already know the outcome. And here she is taking a vote, where we already know the outcome,” one GOP lawmaker said. 

“I think those kinds of purges when trying to get everyone in lockstep is not good for our party, we're a diverse party and I hate to see it. I think it's gonna be hard for her to stay on,” the lawmaker said. 

Another member said a conference discussion to smooth over tensions and discuss a path forward would be a step in the right direction. 

“I think it's actually one of those [where] you have to have everyone in the room and have a conversation. The caucus conference we had before the electors was simply the best conversation ever been through because it was done at a pretty highbrow level,” the lawmaker said. 

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) was quick to come to Cheney’s defense, saying that the failure to have dissenting voices makes the party weaker. 

“That is her right to take a position on this issue as is my right and everybody else's right. We should not be silencing voices of dissent,” she told reporters Wednesday.  

“That is one of the reasons we're in this today is that we have allowed QAnon conspiracy theorists to lead us. QAnon conspiracy theorists led the objections last Wednesday, and we've heard from them last night on the floor of the House and it's wrong. You should not be silencing dissent in this country ever,” Mace said.

One senior GOP official noted that some leaders of the push, including Biggs and Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarArizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Cruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration Trust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots MORE (R-Ariz.), have come under fire in the wake of the siege on Jan. 6, which left five dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

“We’re talking about Gosar and Biggs, who could be facing criminal charges for their role in what happened on [Wednesday],” the senior official told The Hill. “It makes sense they want attention on Liz instead of on themselves because their jobs are actually the ones in jeopardy.” 

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House Republicans can start the process of ousting Cheney if 20 percent of the GOP conference signs on to a petition, though that would just be the first step. 

Cheney ran unopposed for her leadership position following the 2020 election though there was speculation she might face a challenge. 

The House Freedom Caucus has sought to remove members of leadership in the past, having played a key role in the ouster of former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' MORE (R-Ohio.). 

Cheney, who has broken with Trump on key issues and has not been shy in condemning his rhetoric in the past, has had a tense relationship with the conservative group. 

Last summer, Cheney and top Freedom Caucus members engaged in a heated argument during a conference meeting over her decision to back Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieHouse conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney GOP lawmaker on Capitol protesters: 'I will not be deterred' by 'mob demand' Questions and answers about the Electoral College challenges MORE’s (R-Ky.) primary challenger before later retracting her endorsement and campaign contributions after it emerged the candidate had posted controversial tweets. 

Tensions between conservatives and Cheney cooled in November after she vowed she wouldn’t donate to an incumbent’s primary rival going forward. 

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But the impeachment vote reignited the feud. 

“She should not be serving this conference. That's it. This is crap, right here. You can put that down,” Biggs said Tuesday. 

This article was last updated at 9:40 a.m. on Jan. 14