More in GOP turn against Cheney
Trump ally challenging her for House leadership post
WASHINGTON — Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the No. 3 House Republican, faced a challenge to her post Wednesday as party leaders lined up behind Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to replace Cheney, after her clashes with former President Donald Trump.
Trump issued a statement giving his “COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement” to Stefanik to replace Cheney. Stefanik, a 36-year-old Trump loyalist who’s played an increasingly visible role within the GOP, responded quickly, highlighting Trump’s backing to colleagues.
“Thank you President Trump for your 100% support for House GOP Conference Chair. We are unified and focused on FIRING PELOSI & WINNING in 2022!” she tweeted.
President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that the GOP is in the throes of a “significant sort of mini revolution” and said the country needs two healthy political parties.
“I think Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point,” he said.
Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, seemed to have almost
unlimited potential until earlier this year, when she was among just 10 House Republicans to back Trump’s impeachment for inciting supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
She has refused to back down on her criticism under heavy pressure from party leaders who’ve aggressively stood by Trump, despite his continued claims of election fraud. Dozens of state and local officials and judges from both parties have found no evidence to support his assertions.
Combined with a morning endorsement from No. 2 House Republican leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and tacit support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the momentum behind Stefanik’s ascension steadily increased Wednesday.
Stefanik, who represents an upstate New York district, began her House career in 2015 as a moderate Republican.
She spoke out against Trump’s ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, and joined Democrats
in voting against Trump’s effort to unilaterally redirect money to building a wall along the Southwest border. She also led an effort to recruit female candidates for her party.
Stefanik’s rural district, which Barack Obama carried in his successful 2008 and 2012 presidential runs, was subsequently won twice by Trump. She morphed into a stalwart Trump defender and was given a high-profile role during the 2019 House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings.
That was widely seen as a strategic move by the GOP to soften its image by giving a woman a prominent role. Stefanik’s status and visibility within the GOP have soared since then, and she’s also become a significant fundraiser for the party.
Cheney is the highest-ranking woman in the GOP leadership. Replacing her with Stefanik is seen as politically wise as the party tries to bolster its weak appeal among female voters.
There are just 31 Republican women in the House, about one-third of Democrats’ total but up from the 13 who served in the last Congress.
Cheney was making little noticeable effort to cement support by calling colleagues or enlisting others to lobby on her behalf, said two House GOP aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the situation. A third person familiar with Cheney’s effort also said she was not lining up votes.
But one person familiar with Cheney’s thinking said she would battle for her job right until the party votes on it. Meanwhile, she was showing no signs of stepping down voluntarily.
“Liz will have more to say in the coming days. This moment is about much more than a House leadership fight,” said Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler.
Cheney’s opposition to Trump put her out of step with most House Republicans, 138 of whom voted against certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden’s victory. A handful of others, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who voted to impeach Trump, see Cheney as the “truth-telling” GOP leader the nation needs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., kept his distance Wednesday from the House GOP struggle. Asked if he would help Cheney, he told reporters in Georgetown, Ky., “100% of my focus in on stopping this new administration.”