Senate

Top female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to ‘cancel culture’

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the only woman in Senate Republicans’ elected leadership team, compared efforts to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership to “cancel culture,” and argued that the party should be focused on unifying heading into 2022.  

“I feel it’s OK to go ahead and express what you feel is right to express and, you know, cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it. Unfortunately, I think there are those that are trying to silence others in the party,” Ernst told reporters on Monday asked about Cheney’s likely ouster.

House Republicans will vote Wednesday on whether to remove Cheney as their conference chair. Though she survived a similar attempt earlier this year, she’s all but guaranteed to be ousted Wednesday amid growing frustration over her criticism of former President Trump and the false claim he and some of his ardent supporters have made that the 2020 election was “stolen.” 

Ernst, who is the Senate GOP’s conference vice chair, noted that she supports Trump and his policies, so she and Cheney aren’t coming from the same place, “but I still think we shouldn’t be trying to cancel voices.”  

“What we can do is come together and try to win seats in 2022. I think that’s what all of us should be focused on,” Ernst said, adding that she thought the fight over Cheney was a distraction from that.  

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a letter to his caucus Monday telling them to expect the vote on Cheney’s future Wednesday.  

McCarthy argued that Republicans were a “big tent party” but the feud had become a distraction.  

“Our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted from the important work we were elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve. The stakes are too high to come up short. I trust you agree,” he wrote. 

Though other GOP senators have defended Cheney, including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), Ernst is the most high-ranking GOP senator that has gone the farthest to defend Cheney as she’s faced growing frustration from top Republicans, including McCarthy and Rep. Steve Scalise (La.). Trump has also lashed out at Cheney over the past week in public statements. 

Unlike other Republican senators who have come out in defense of Cheney, Ernst voted to acquit Trump during both the 2020 and 2021 impeachment trials. Ernst, who won election to her second Senate term last year, initially defended Cheney over the one-week recess telling Politico that “any elected official should stand their ground.” 

But her doubling down comes as other members of the Senate GOP leadership team have largely sought to stay out of the Cheney fight, arguing it’s a matter that needs to be worked out by the House. 

“Well I’m not sure it says much of anything I think it sounds like it’s an internal House matter it sounds like it’s decided. So I don’t think there is any big mystery in how it’s going to come out. But, I mean I think hopefully the message is that we want to be united, we want to win in ’22,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters Monday.

Asked if that means saying that Biden didn’t win the election, Thune demurred adding, “you know my view on that.” Thune, like most Senate Republicans, voted against challenges to the 2020 election results in Congress. 

Asked about Cheney, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who was previously a member of House leadership, added that he didn’t think House Republicans wanted “advice from senators.” 

Tags Donald Trump John Thune Joni Ernst Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Mitt Romney Roy Blunt Steve Scalise Susan Collins

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