Republicans rally to keep Cheney in power

The establishment wing of the GOP won a rare and dramatic victory Wednesday night when Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMcCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel Pelosi taps Kinzinger to serve on Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Wyo.) beat back an attempt by Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE’s staunchest allies to knock her from power as retribution for voting to impeach the former president just three weeks earlier.

The 145-61 vote in favor of keeping Cheney in leadership, conducted by secret ballot, followed a marathon closed-door “family discussion” in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center, where dozens of House Republicans lined up to voice their frustrations with the Wyoming representative, the most powerful GOP woman in Congress, and called for her removal as conference chair, a role that entails leading the party’s messaging efforts.

The vote was the latest — and most dramatic — manifestation of the civil war raging within the GOP over the direction the party should take in the post-Trump era, a debate that has become increasingly contentious following the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

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The critics’ resolution — led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) — maintained that Cheney, by attacking the Republicans’ standard-bearer, had forfeited her right to represent the party at the leadership table.

Yet Cheney found a powerful ally in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel Pelosi taps Kinzinger to serve on Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Calif.), who had previously voiced “concerns” over Cheney’s impeachment vote but rose to defend her in an impassioned speech during Wednesday's meeting. McCarthy said he wanted to end the internal feud and that his leadership team should remain intact.

“People can have differences of opinion. ... Liz has a right to vote her conscience. And at the end of the day we’ll be united,” McCarthy said during a break in the midst of the meeting.

It was far from the only drama of the day. 

GOP lawmakers also spent a good chunk of the meeting grappling with how to handle Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a past QAnon conspiracy theorist who has come under fire for a host of violent and racist social media posts she made in recent years. 

Greene expressed support for executing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel Pelosi taps Kinzinger to serve on Jan. 6 panel MORE (D-Calif.), endorsed the debunked notion that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a hoax, floated a bizarre conspiracy theory that the California wildfires were orchestrated by a wealthy Jewish banking family, and claimed the deadly school shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland were “false flag” events staged by anti-gun activists. 

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In response, Democratic leaders have demanded that McCarthy boot Greene from two top-tier committee assignments: Budget and Education. If he fails to act, Democrats have warned, they’ll move legislation to remove her themselves — a vote expected to take place on Thursday.

Responding to the Democrats’ ultimatum, McCarthy said he’d offered to shift Greene from the Education panel to the Small Business Committee, a proposal that was rejected by Democrats. 

Rather than stir an outcry from Trump and the GOP base voters sympathetic to Greene, McCarthy shifted the blame toward Democrats, accusing them of overreaching in their effort to police speech made before Greene was elected. 

“I made that offer to the Democrats, and they chose to do something Congress has never done,” McCarthy said.

During the meeting, Greene did apologize for certain past remarks, telling colleagues she regrets her controversial statements and embrace of QAnon, according to two sources in the meeting. But she added that she felt nothing would ever be good enough for Democrats or the media. 

Some in the room stood and applauded her. 

Democrats, meanwhile, lambasted Republicans for the effort to reprimand Cheney while avoiding any similar rebuke for Greene. 

Greene “perpetrated QAnon lunacy,” said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats warn leadership against excluding House from infrastructure talks Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers MORE (D-Md.).

“Yet they're not having a meeting about her. They're having a meeting about somebody who showed great political courage and principle,” he added, in reference to Cheney.

The Wyoming Republican, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has faced a barrage of internal criticism after she savaged Trump for his role in the deadly Capitol attack, which she deemed the greatest betrayal by a sitting president against his own country in U.S. history. 

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in explaining her support for impeachment. “Everything that followed was his doing.”

The backlash was immediate. Conservative Trump allies quickly lashed out, accusing Cheney of violating former President Reagan’s celebrated 11th amendment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

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Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act Performance or performance art? A question for voters in 2022 (and 2024) Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE (R-Fla.) took the extraordinary step of visiting Wyoming last week to drum up opposition to his own GOP colleague in hopes of sparking a primary challenge that will eject Cheney from Congress altogether. 

Wednesday’s resolution to topple her from leadership was the critics’ first formal attempt to orchestrate her downfall — an extraordinary step highlighting the degree of division dogging Republicans as they engage in a torturous routine of soul-searching following Trump’s exit from the White House. 

Aside from the impeachment vote itself, supporters of the resolution had bashed Cheney for announcing her support for impeachment a day before the vote, handing Democrats potent talking points that could be used against her fellow Republicans.  

“The facts here aren’t in dispute. On the eve of impeachment, the conference chair, responsible for messaging, put out a statement that the Democrats and the mainstream media used against us for the entirety of the following day,” Rosendale told his colleagues in the meeting. 

“At a tough time for all of us, under fire from everywhere, she made our lives harder,” Rosendale said.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Pelosi taps Kinzinger to serve on Jan. 6 panel Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE (R-Ohio), the former Freedom Caucus leader and close Trump ally, gave a passionate speech stating that Cheney is fit to serve in Congress but lost her right to sit in leadership. 

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Cheney “can stay on committee and serve her constituents,” he said, according to a GOP source familiar with his remarks. “But she’s not suited to serve a conference where 96 percent are on the opposite side of her.”

But Cheney, who has repeatedly clashed with Trump loyalists over her hawkish foreign policy views and her push to primary a sitting Republican, Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieEthics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers House Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against GOP lawmakers California Democrats clash over tech antitrust fight MORE (Ky.), before she retracted her endorsement of his opponent after social media posts showed him making inflammatory remarks, remained defiant during Wednesday's gathering, telling colleagues she would not apologize for her vote to impeach Trump, sources said. 

A triumphant Cheney said after the vote, “We're not going to be divided, and we're not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership.”

Nine other Republicans joined her in that historic vote to charge Trump with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection that claimed five lives, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was honored in a congressional ceremony Wednesday morning.

Numerous Cheney allies — including Republican Reps. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerRepublicans hammer HUD chief over sluggish rental aid Trump unhappy with Guilfoyle backing Greitens: report Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (Mo.), Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Controversy equals cash for Greene, Gaetz There's 'something wrong with our bloody ships today' MORE (Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyJuan Williams: Republicans prefer Trump's fantasies over truth and facts The Hill's Morning Report - Biden renews families plan pitch; Senate prepares to bring infrastructure package to floor House Republican says colleagues' 'job' is to slow Democratic priorities MORE (Texas) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerMcCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel Pelosi taps Kinzinger to serve on Jan. 6 panel MORE (Ill.) — came to her defense during the private meeting, lauding her for standing by her principles. 

“Liz Cheney is a person of character, a person of conviction, and she sets the standard for speaking out on things she believes in,” Rep. French HillJames (French) French HillTop Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East The Hill's Morning Report - Bidens to visit Surfside, Fla., collapse site On The Money: Pelosi rebuffs McConnell on infrastructure | White House mounts full-court press on infrastructure deal | Supreme Court leaves CDC eviction moratorium intact MORE (R-Ark.) told the room, sources said. 

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Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHouse committee approves slate of bills to improve telecom security Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water MORE (R-Wash.), whom Cheney nudged out of the conference chair job in 2018, told the room that Cheney hasn’t supported her in the past but that this wasn’t the right time to make a change.

“It's clear that people had a lot that they needed to get out on both sides of it. But ultimately, I think the conference came to the right decision, and I'm grateful for Kevin's leadership on it,” Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising Governors' races see flood of pro-Trump candidates MORE (R-Ohio), who also supported impeaching Trump, told The Hill. 

“Now, I hope we can stop the circular firing squad and start moving towards trying to take the majority again,” Gonzalez said.

Updated 10:30 p.m.