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Ernst defends Cheney, calls for GOP unity

GOP Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (Iowa) on Wednesday defended House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO Democrat Matt Putorti challenges Stefanik for NY House seat MORE (Wyo.) amid growing pushback from fellow House Republicans while also urging the party to unify.

“Any elected official should stand their ground. If you feel firmly about something, you should stand your ground," Ernst told Politico. "But I also believe that we need to come together as a party, recognize we have differences within the party but the goal with us should be to win seats."

Ernst serves as vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, making her one of only two women in GOP leadership in Congress, along with Cheney.

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Cheney has faced a barrage of criticism and calls for her to be removed from House leadership after defending her vote to impeach former President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE following the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The backlash escalated this week when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE (R-Calif.) said GOP members were "concerned" Cheney couldn't carry out her job. The Republican leader was also reportedly caught on a hot mic saying he has "had it" with Cheney.

Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology House fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses The Memo: Homegrown extremism won't be easily tamed MORE (La.), the No. 2 House Republican, also joined calls to remove Cheney from her post, releasing a statement Wednesday backing Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse fails to pass bill to promote credit fairness for LGTBQ-owned businesses GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE (R-N.Y.) to replace her as conference chair.

Ernst told Politico, "What’s going on in the House — they need to evaluate is this helping or hurting our party.”

“I know Liz. I appreciate Liz so much. And she feels very strongly about her stance. And again, I know many Republicans that feel very strongly about their stance: pro-Trump, not for Trump, whatever it is. But at the end of the day we have work to get done," she added.

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The Iowa senator said, “At the end of the day we need to all pull together as Republicans and make sure that we’re securing seats.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday avoided answering questions on whether he would attempt to step in to try to help Cheney hold on to her leadership role.

"One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration," McConnell told reporters. 

—Updated at 3:50 p.m.