Feb 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Inside the GOP's fight for "the direction of our party"

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)
Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

One House Republican said Wednesday's hours-long GOP conference meeting wasn't just about Reps. Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene but "the direction of our party."

Why it matters: In voting to leave Cheney in her leadership post after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy previously announced he wouldn't pull Greene off her committees, the party perpetuated its divisions. Retaining Cheney risks upsetting Trump Republicans, while not ousting Greene empowers Democrats who are ready to do so themselves on Thursday.

  • "I don't think this is about Liz Cheney," Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) told reporters. "This is about the direction of our party."

What we’re hearing: Leadership desperately wanted the party to move on from all of the infighting, which is why it worked to end the drama surrounding Cheney with its secret-ballot vote preserving her as chairwoman of the conference.

  • The undisclosed tally came after members voiced their opinions over a session lasting more than four hours.

Inside the room: McCarthy opened the meeting by declaring he personally wanted to keep Cheney in her position, sources familiar with his closed-door remarks told Axios. He also condemned Greene's conspiratorial remarks, but said he wasn't seeking any immediate repercussions during the meeting.

  • In backing Greene, McCarthy risks public condemnation and fueled a Democratic effort to remove her through a House vote. In standing with Cheney, who voted to impeach the former president, he also risks alienating himself from the pro-Trump Republicans who remain a potent part of the Republicans' base.
  • Multiple members then stood up to weigh in on the current political environment. Some, like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), defended Cheney for voting with her conscience. Kinzinger also voted for impeachment.
  • Others, like Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), defended Greene, saying they need to give everyone a chance, and reiterated that Greene's conspiratorial remarks were made prior to her taking office.

McCarthy told members he offered to move Greene off the Education and Labor committees and onto Small Business, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer refused.

  • All members will now be forced to vote Thursday on whether to remove Greene from the committees.
  • Several GOP lawmakers also are frustrated with McCarthy for failing to deal with Greene on his own. Now they have to cast a difficult vote on Greene.
  • "We're going to move ahead, because we think the situation is so grievous, and so dangerous, and so, demeaning to the House of Representatives that we have no alternative," Hoyer told Axios.

At the end of the night, right before members voted to save Cheney, McCarthy gave a final speech, to which he received a standing ovation.

  • He said something to the effect of: “If you have confidence in me. Have confidence in my team,” according to a source in the room.
  • McCarthy then gave the example of Rep. Jim Jordan, the fire-y member of the House Freedom Caucus, and how the steering committee was skeptical of making him the ranking member of House Oversight.
  • "But he’s proven to be an essential part of the team. We need to unite, trust my decision here," McCarthy said, per the source.
  • The conference ultimately voted 145-61 to keep Cheney in leadership.
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