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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 Cheney’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. 

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 Trump 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 McCarthy (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.

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 Massie (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 Gaetz (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 McConnell (Ky.), Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), and Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.), Dan Crenshaw (Texas), Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Chip Roy (Texas), Ken Buck (Colo.), John Katko (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Nancy Mace (S.C.) and Michael McCaul (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 Pelosi (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.  

Tags Adam Kinzinger Chip Roy Dan Crenshaw Donald Trump John Barrasso John Katko Ken Buck Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Matt Gaetz Michael McCaul Mike Gallagher Mitch McConnell Nancy Mace Nancy Pelosi Thomas Massie Tom Cole

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