Jan 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to member of Congress that read: "Remove Cheney Now!"
Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber’s Republican conference even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

What they're saying: "My position hasn't changed. It's the same thing I said two weeks ago," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told Axios. "There needs to be a new vote."

  • Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the fashionably loud Democrat-turned-Republican from New Jersey, said he's been in talks with other members who have signed a petition to oust Cheney and there's "still a lot of momentum."
  • Van Drew added: "You want to know that people who are in a position of leadership are going to take care of you and not throw you under the bus."

How it would work: Under the most likely scenario, the critics need 43 signatures from their 211 members for a special caucus meeting. If they succeeded, they would then need a two-thirds vote to replace Cheney — a high bar to clear.

What we're hearing: Sources familiar with McCarthy's decision tell Axios his comments were less a show of support than a plea to end infighting and focus on attacking the "Biden-Pelosi-Schumer" agenda, as the GOP calls it.

  • McCarthy has told some of the more conservative members that he hears their grievances and promises to give them time to address them during their conference meeting next week. He also has concerns about how Cheney handled her vote, the sources say, given her position in leadership.
  • Nonetheless, McCarthy thinks forcing a referendum on Cheney would put his members in an extremely difficult spot ahead of the 2022 midterms.

Worth noting: State Sen. Anthony Bouchard announced Wednesday he plans to challenge Cheney in the Republican primary for Wyoming's lone House seat.

  • Cheney has the ability to raise a ton of money for the party, given her brand name and high-dollar connections, thanks to her father, Dick Cheney.
  • Her appeal to the donor community also has expanded since the Capitol attack, while McCarthy and his No. 2, Rep. Steve Scalise, have been challenged over their Electoral College objection.
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