Freedom Caucus Republican says Cheney was ‘canceled’
As House conservatives banded together Wednesday to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from the GOP leadership ranks, one conservative lawmaker was sounding a discordant note, warning that Cheney had been “canceled” in the same manner Republicans have condemned.
“Liz Cheney was canceled today for speaking her mind and disagreeing with the narrative that President Trump has put forth,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) told reporters in the Capitol.
Buck, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, suggested Cheney has every right to air her grievances with former President Trump and his false narrative surrounding his election defeat, even from a leadership position. That criticism was the reason she was dumped from the No. 3 leadership spot on Wednesday.
Most conservatives, backing Trump, said Cheney was the wrong fit to remain conference chairwoman, since her message bucked that coming from other Republican leaders.
“You can’t have a conference chair who recites Democrat talking points,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, after the vote.
Yet Buck, a former aide to Cheney’s father, Dick Cheney, when he was a Wyoming congressman, noted that removing Cheney won’t prevent Trump from continuing to air false claims that the election was stolen. Buck warned that Wednesday’s vote to oust her will likely haunt Republicans at the polls next year.
“We have to deal with this narrative at some point. There are major issues — the border, spending — there are major issues,” he said. “But to suggest that the American people in 2022 won’t consider the fact that we were unwilling to stand up to a narrative that the election was stolen, I think will be taken into consideration with their vote.”
Cheney has long been a target of conservatives for her willingness to criticize Trump on a host of policy issues, from COVID-19 to overseas conflicts. But those criticisms heated up earlier this year, when she sided with Democrats in voting to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. And they’ve escalated again in the months since, as Cheney has urged Republicans to distance themselves from the disgruntled former president and his election fictions.
The growing divisions caused the top two GOP leaders, Reps. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Steve Scalise (La.), to support Cheney’s removal. They’ve both endorsed a replacement: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), whose star rose when she emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal defenders during his first impeachment.
Buck said McCarthy had no choice, given the mood of the GOP base and its overwhelming support for Trump. But he suggested it wasn’t the route GOP leaders wanted to go.
“I think that Kevin was boxed, frankly, and I think he did this reluctantly,” Buck said.
Meanwhile, a number of conservatives are furious that Stefanik has been tapped as Cheney’s heir apparent. They’re pointing to Stefanik’s moderate voting record in urging Republicans to reject her.
Asked about Stefanik, Buck was terse in his criticism.
“I think she’s a liberal,” he said, adding that he won’t support her in the vote to seat her as Cheney’s replacement, which is expected to occur Friday.
Still, Buck acknowledged that Stefanik is a shoo-in to win the leadership post, given the endorsements from Trump, McCarthy and Scalise.
“I don’t think there would be anybody that wants to risk a future chairmanship or a future role in the party to take on Elise Stefanik,” he said. “Which I think is terribly unfortunate.”
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