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Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP

When Republicans vote Wednesday to expel House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyLiz Cheney hired security after death threats: report Cheney: 'It is disgusting and despicable' to see Gosar 'lie' about Jan. 6 GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas MORE from the No. 3 leadership post, it will cement the Wyoming Republican and political scion as the face of the anti-Trump movement in the party.

What remains unclear is whether her apostasy leads to a political cul-de-sac or becomes the launching pad to a more prominent role within a Republican Party that’s still grappling with its identity in a post-Trump Washington.

Until now, that splintered Never Trump faction has had no apparent leader. Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainHeatwaves don't lie: Telling the truth about climate change Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West MORE (R-Ariz.), the 2008 presidential nominee who repeatedly clashed with former President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE, died in 2018. Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R), the centrist Alaskan, and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOvernight Defense: Senate panel delays Iraq war powers repeal | Study IDs Fort Hood as least-safe base for female soldiers | Pentagon loosens some COVID-19 restrictions Senate panel delays war authorization repeal after GOP push Eliminate family and child poverty: Richard Nixon may help in today's debate MORE (R-Utah), the party’s 2012 standard-bearer, both backed Trump’s impeachment this year but don’t lean into every Trump controversy. 

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Other vocal Trump critics such as Reps. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerKinzinger: Conspiracy theory FBI planned Jan. 6 example of 'legacy of Trump and Trumpism' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin MORE (R-Ill.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerBiden needles GOP touting rescue plan they opposed: 'Some people have no shame' GOP leader's Jan. 6 call to Trump draws scrutiny in commission fight Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (R-Wash.) and Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezTrump endorses Murkowski challenger The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Past criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries MORE (R-Ohio) don’t have the stature or national name ID.    

But in just a few short months, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has claimed the mantle as top truth-teller to Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She’s done so by warning, repeatedly and unbidden, that the party must reject Trump and his efforts to delegitimize President BidenJoe BidenMilitary must better understand sexual assaults to combat them The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population On The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling MORE’s victory or risk alienating moderate voters — and inciting more violence like that which befell the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

“We must not be complicit in the former president’s lies,” Cheney said Tuesday in a statement to The Hill. “Our oath to the Constitution imposes a duty to defend the foundations of our Republic from his unprecedented and ongoing assault.” 

For standing firm, Romney called Cheney “a person of integrity who follows her conscience and speaks the truth.” Casting Cheney out, he said, “will do nothing but drive some people away from our party; it certainly doesn’t add more people.”

But in a party still commanded by Trump, those are the voices of the minority. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (R-S.C.) warned Tuesday that if Republicans dismiss Trump, “half the people will leave.” 

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In a private meeting on Wednesday morning, Republicans will take the unprecedented step of voting to oust Cheney as conference chairwoman, the same post her father held when he served in the House decades earlier. 

The vote will cap a tumultuous five-month stretch for the younger Cheney, who shocked the political world in January by announcing she would vote to impeach Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 — something Cheney called the greatest “betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Trump vowed retribution, and a band of his fervent loyalists attempted to topple her in a similar closed-door meeting in early February. But Cheney, with support from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHillicon Valley: Cyber agency says SolarWinds hack could have been deterred | Civil rights groups urge lawmakers to crack down on Amazon's 'dangerous' worker surveillance | Manchin-led committee puts forth sprawling energy infrastructure proposal Chuck Todd reluctant to 'ban' election deniers from 'Meet the Press' GOP divided over bills targeting tech giants MORE (R-Calif.), beat back the challenge in a convincing 145-61 vote. 

The secret ballot allowed lawmakers to endorse her leadership role without doing so publicly — and sparking backlash from Trump, who is vowing to be a campaign kingmaker through the 2022 cycle.

Republicans thought they could turn the page, but Cheney continued calling out Trump and his defenders, highlighting GOP divisions at a time when party leaders were trying to unify behind an anti-Biden message with eyes on flipping the House next year. Rank-and-file Republicans were infuriated.

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This time, McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment MORE (R-La.), who had helped Cheney ascend to the post back in 2018, agreed that the Wyoming Republican had to go. Both leaders have endorsed a key Trump ally, moderate Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Canadian ambassador calls for close coordination in handling of US border Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (R-N.Y.), to replace her.

“Kevin gave her a chance; she failed,” conservative Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl Davidson21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE (R-Ohio), a Trump ally, told The Hill. “It’s time to get focused, remove Liz and advance our shared principles.” 

Cheney’s rapid fall from favor is a telling episode in the long and bitter internal debate over Trump’s role in the future of the Republican Party — a debate that’s pitted Trump’s allies against his detractors, and left little room for nuanced views in between. 

Cheney, representing one side of that divide, is warning that Republicans face a bleak future with Trump at the helm. McCarthy, representing the other, thinks the party doesn’t stand a chance without him there. And with Trump still enormously popular with the GOP’s conservative base, it’s all but certain that Cheney’s colleagues are poised to cast her out in Wednesday’s vote. 

"She is speaking boldly and courageously. But that comes with a price," Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and GOP presidential contender, told CNN on Tuesday. 

With her expected defeat, Cheney will join a long list of GOP lawmakers who have confronted Trump head-on and suffered political blowback as a result. The list includes former Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.), and former Reps. Mark SanfordMark SanfordCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote Lobbying world MORE (R-S.C.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash warns of turning lawmakers like Cheney into 'heroes' Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' MORE (I-Mich.). All either retired or suffered primary defeats after criticizing the party’s mercurial standard-bearer. 

Democrats, meanwhile, have had little in common with the conservative Cheney in her years on Capitol Hill. But amid her fight with Trump, they’re taking every opportunity to portray Cheney as the lonely voice of sanity in a party otherwise bowing to Trump’s wishes. 

“It's a sad day that the other party, the party of opposition, is now a party of lies, mistruths, misinformation to the public,” said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBiden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' House passes political spending, climate change corporate disclosures bill House to vote Wednesday on making Juneteenth a federal holiday MORE (D-Md.).

Many Republicans believe Wednesday’s internal vote will mark the end of what was a once-promising political career for Cheney. 

As recently as last year, she was mentioned by colleagues as a possible future Speaker or president. But since her impeachment vote, the Wyoming GOP censured her and Trump has issued multiple statements promising to recruit a candidate to unseat her in her primary race next year. Already, a handful of pro-Trump contenders are lining up to challenge her return to Congress.

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“I see no path forward for her in our party,” a senior GOP aide said.

Still, even some Trump allies concede that Cheney will be someone to watch in the future, especially as she vows to wage war against Trump long after her ouster. A bid for president, some Republicans said, could still be in the cards, even if it’s unclear whether there will be a wide lane for a “Never Trump” candidate like Cheney in a future GOP primary.  

“Everybody reconstitutes themselves … and she’s super smart and she’s driven and she’s a friend,” Rep. Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE (R-Tenn.) told The Hill on Tuesday. 

“I would absolutely think she would” run for the White House, he said. “People have very short memories in the political world. Never count anybody out in this game.”

Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.), the former Speaker, also declined to count Cheney out, speculating that she’s savvy enough to forge a political comeback in the future — if the conditions are right. 

"This could be purely an act of conscience, and she could fade away into the sunset,” Gingrich told Fox News this week. “But the Cheneys are very smart. They have been around a long time. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see her show up as an independent candidate for president if Trump is renominated.”