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House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war

House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war
© Bonnie Cash

House Republicans are gearing up for what is expected to be a heated conference meeting on Wednesday, when members are slated to discuss House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Trump tears into Biden, GOP critics in first post-presidency speech Trump calls on Republicans to 'get rid' of Cheney, other GOP critics MORE’s (Wyo.) future in leadership. 

The mounting controversies surrounding first-year GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) — a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has come under fire for a number of previous racist and violent statements — and the impact they are having on the party is also expected to be a topic of discussion. 

The “family discussion” comes as a civil war rages within the GOP over the direction the party should take in the post-Trump era, with multiple Republican sources saying they expect tensions to run high. 

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House conservatives are looking to oust Cheney — the No. 3 Republican in the House and highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership — from her conference chairwoman position. Critics are taking issue with her announcement that she would vote to impeach former President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE for inciting the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and her criticism of challenges launched by House Republicans to the certification of the Electoral College results in key swing states. 

Cheney has stood by her decisions despite being criticized for breaking with Trump on key issues and at times condemning his rhetoric during the course of his administration. 

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) — who are leading the efforts on a resolution calling on the Wyoming Republican to step aside — have argued that she has failed to represent the views of the majority of the conference.  

Conservatives are slated to present the resolution on Wednesday, but sources close to the effort note they could face procedural hurdles in ousting Cheney from her role. 

Two-thirds of Republicans would need to agree to immediately hold a vote to remove Cheney; otherwise, the issue would be sent to an ad hoc committee likely to be made up of leadership allies who would rule in favor of Cheney. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTrump calls on Republicans to 'get rid' of Cheney, other GOP critics Trump seeks to cement hold on GOP McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE (R-Calif.) — who has said he has concerns with Cheney’s impeachment vote but doesn’t support her ouster — also has the power to bring up the vote.

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It remains unclear whether the California Republican will opt to bring up the resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.  

“The allies could try to bury the resolution in kind of a brass-knuckled way,” a senior GOP aide familiar with conservatives’ push said.  

“If they do that, I think there's going to be a pretty strong reaction from the conference and from conservatives. If they allow the resolution [to oust Cheney] to go forward, ultimately I believe it will prevail in a secret ballot,” the aide added. 

Freedom Caucus members and Trump’s most vocal supporters have long had a turbulent relationship with Cheney. Tensions boiled over the summer after she decided to support the primary opponent of conservative Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCan members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (R-Ky.), though she later withdrew her backing after controversial comments from the candidate emerged.

While efforts were made to mend the relationship between the Cheney and the far-right faction of the conference prior to the start of the 117th Congress, the impeachment vote reignited the feud. 

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 New super PAC aims to support lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict Trump Grenell hints at potential California gubernatorial bid MORE (R-Fla.), a ringleader in the push to oust Cheney, told The Hill the conference is made up of “those who want to drive out the populists, those who want to drive out the establishment and those who simply want peace.” 

“I'll say that if the Republican conference is about to go to civil war, the shots fired at Fort Sumter weren't impeachment; they were the attacks on Thomas Massie,” he added. 

While a sizable number of conservatives are taking aim at Cheney, other top Republicans have publicly come out in her defense, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (Ky.), Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoBiden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland Senate confirms former Michigan governor Granholm as Energy secretary MORE (Wyo.), and Reps. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDemocratic women sound alarm on female unemployment House votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theories LIVE COVERAGE: House debates removing Greene from committees MORE (Okla.), Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawSix ways to visualize a divided America Texas lawmakers' tweets mocking California power outages resurface amid winter storm Will the post-Trump GOP party be coming anytime soon? MORE (Texas), Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherLawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war Back to the future: America must renew its commitment to scientific inquiry MORE (Wis.), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people GOP's Chip Roy vows to fight Equality Act in court Conservatives go after Cheney for Trump CPAC remarks MORE (Texas), Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHouse to launch antitrust hearings starting next week Congress faces news showdown with Facebook, Google House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (Colo.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation Lawmakers blame SolarWinds hack on 'collective failure' to prioritize cybersecurity Taylor Swift celebrates House passage of Equality Act MORE (N.Y.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerNew super PAC aims to support lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict Trump Trump tears into Biden, GOP critics in first post-presidency speech Kinzinger: GOP 'certainly not united' on 'vision for the future' MORE (Ill.), Nancy MaceNancy MaceSix ways to visualize a divided America Will the post-Trump GOP party be coming anytime soon? House GOP campaign arm rolls out new leadership team MORE (S.C.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (Texas).

Her supporters have noted that the impeachment vote and votes to certify the election were not whipped, with impeachment being referred to as a “vote of conscience.” 

In advance of the meeting, Cheney has been making calls to shore up support, Politico first reported. And multiple allies have said they are ready to speak out in defense of the Wyoming Republican on Wednesday afternoon.   

Her defenders note that the optics of ousting Cheney while Democrats are looking to make Greene the face of the party could be detrimental for Republicans in swing districts in the next election cycle.   

Top Democrats in the House have taken steps to potentially force a vote to remove Greene from her committees if McCarthy — who has come under fire by some in his conference for his handling of the Greene controversies and messaging since the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — does not remove her first.  

Greene has previously expressed support for executing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.) and perpetuated conspiracy theories that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a hoax and that the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were false flags, though she later walked those remarks back.

The push to remove her has been met with mixed reactions within the House GOP, with some arguing her comments before being sworn in warrant strong consequences and others voicing they fear it sets a bad precedent and could further divide the conference. McCarthy is expected to meet with Greene, but the timing remains unclear.  

“If there aren't consequences for Taylor Greene but Cheney is removed or pushed out, the message that sends about the GOP in 2021 is bad — it'll hurt us politically. It's the wrong place for us to be in right now, and I think members sort of understand that too,” a senior GOP operative told The Hill. 

Scott Wong contributed.