In an extraordinary move, U.S. House Republicans removed one of their most prominent members, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, as a leader in the party.
The move to depose her as House Republican Conference Chair, the third-ranking GOP position in the House, came in a closed-door caucus vote. The votes of the 22 Texas Republicans were not immediately clear. Most members have stayed silent on the issue.
Leadership shake-ups in the middle of a Congressional term are highly rare. But this decision to remove Cheney was more than a mere changing of the guard.
Her removal marked, perhaps, the final consolidation of support for former President Donald Trump within the Republican Party, even as Trump left office nearly four months ago. At issue was Cheney’s continued criticism toward Trump for his repeated lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Cheney, who will remain in the House as a rank-and-file member, went down swinging as an unrepentant Trump critic.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before,” she said on Tuesday night from the House floor. “A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election as stolen from him.”
“He risks inciting further violence,” she added. “Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words but not the truth. As he continues to undermine our democratic process sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”
At least one Texas Republican was at the forefront of her ouster. U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden of Terrell forecast her removal last week, predicting she would be out of the position by the end of the month.
“It’s official- Liz Cheney has been fired from House Leadership and I was proud to vote against her,” he tweeted amid a GOP House Republican meeting Wednesday morning.
Leading up to the vote, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, announced in a memo to Republicans that he would vote to remove Cheney as GOP conference chair because “she forfeited her ability to be our spokesperson by pulling us into distraction.”
In the letter, Roy depicted Cheney’s defiance of the former president as “personal attacks” and “finger-wagging.”
Five months ago, Cheney led the charge from the Republican side of the aisle for Trump’s second impeachment in January. At the time, it appeared that her stature would offer political cover for more reluctant Republicans. Cheney easily survived a previous attempt to oust her in February, but that support wilted as she continued to criticize Trump.
Months later, Cheney found herself in a lonely fight to defy Trump.
Prior to the insurrection, Cheney was considered one of the fastest rising GOP stars and among the toughest of hard-line conservatives — particularly on foreign policy.
She spent much of her career working in the State Department and as a Fox News contributor. In 2014, she launched an eventually aborted U.S. Senate campaign in her family’s home base of Wyoming. She ran again in 2016, but this time for the state’s at-large U.S. House seat and easily won.
At the end of her freshman term in 2018, Cheney won her chair position by a unanimous voice vote and was widely considered a top contender for the speakership at some point in the future. In the role of conference chair, she ran the internal business of the conference and made frequent media appearances.
The Cheney family has deep ties to Texas. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney’s father, lived in Dallas between his tenure as President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense and as President George W. Bush’s vice president. At that time, he was the CEO of Halliburton, an oilfield services company.
In his Tuesday letter, Roy expressed skepticism at the prospect of Stefanik to helm the Republican conference as chair because of her somewhat moderate voting record. Stefanik has voted in line with pro-Trump positions 77.7% of the time, which has drawn her some criticism from Republicans like Roy.
“We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats’ agenda once sworn in — that is, that we do not make the same mistakes we made in 2017.”