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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.

Go deeper

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being. 

Exclusive: Biden administration raises minimum wage for federal employees to $15

A poster demanding a federal $15-per-hour minimum wage seen near the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 26, 2021. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal agencies are being directed to raise the minimum wages for government employees to $15 an hour, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: The guidance will impact almost 70,000 federal employees, most of which work at the Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Veterans Affairs. OMP is directing agencies to implement the new wage by Jan. 30.