House Republicans vote to keep Liz Cheney in leadership 145 - 61
Democrats plan a House vote Thursday to strip GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, after the top House Republican condemned her past comments embracing conspiracy theories and political violence but signaled he wouldn’t remove her from the panels. The intensifying fight over the freshman Georgia representative converged with an unsuccessful effort by Republicans to topple House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. A motion to oust her was defeated 145-61 in Ms. Cheney’s favor, GOP aides said late Wednesday.
The two debates highlighted the fierce infighting roiling the party as it seeks to define itself after Mr. Trump’s loss -- and the eagerness of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) to knit together warring factions of the GOP.
After weeks of withholding judgment, Mr. McCarthy indicated Wednesday that he wouldn’t move to strip committee assignments from Mrs. Greene, a Trump loyalist who has drawn bipartisan condemnation for several past social-media posts that have emerged since she took office.
“Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday. Mr. McCarthy said he met privately with Mrs. Greene on Tuesday night and stressed that she must hold herself to a higher standard as an elected official.
Mr. McCarthy said that he proposed moving Mrs. Greene from the education panel to the small business committee but that Democrats had rebuffed the suggestion. Democrats, who control the House, could remove Mrs. Greene from her committees on a party-line vote.
During a closed-doors meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. McCarthy said he supported keeping Mrs. Greene on the House’s education and budget committees. He also backed keeping Ms. Cheney in leadership, speaking in support of her at both the start and close of the hourslong meeting, saying she was part of a team that had delivered results in November, when Republicans picked up House seats.
“We didn’t lose one seat this election” Mr. McCarthy said in his closing remarks, according to someone familiar with the meeting. “Let me put my team together and we will win the majority.”
Ms. Cheney was the only member of GOP leadership—and one of 10 House Republicans overall—to vote to impeach Mr. Trump last month on allegations that he incited the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
During Wednesday afternoon’s meeting, Ms. Cheney said she wouldn’t apologize for her vote but offered context for the timing of the statement she had released the night before, in which she said of Mr. Trump: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Rep. Dan Bishop (R., N.C.) introduced a resolution that had been circulating among House Republicans calling on Ms. Cheney to step down from leadership.
Mr. McCarthy ascended to power on his ability to forge strong relationships, including with Mr. Trump. His actions Wednesday will almost certainly leave some faction of the House GOP unhappy and complicate his ambitions of becoming speaker if the party reclaims the House next year.
“It is not at all clear that the Trump base and the Republican country club base can coexist, but it’s the only path to a majority,” said former GOP aide Stewart Verdery. “There’s just not enough votes amongst either crowd to win back the House.”
Mr. McCarthy’s decision to leave Mrs. Greene on committees shifts some of the political focus to Democrats who will now try to remove her. But it also opens up Mr. McCarthy to continued criticism among some House Republicans that he hasn’t done more to manage the fallout over Mrs. Greene. Thursday’s vote could also put some House GOP lawmakers in a difficult spot in deciding whether to vote to protect her from Democratic punishment, a stance that could repel donors and voters skeptical of both her and Mr. Trump.
Mr. McCarthy, who has swung between saying Mr. Trump bears some responsibility for the deadly attack on the Capitol and saying he didn’t provoke the violence, flew to Florida last week to mend fences with the former president.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said Wednesday morning that the House would vote Thursday on stripping Mrs. Greene of her committee posts.
“She came to the Congress with an extraordinarily hostile rhetoric and hostile actions that she had taken prior to coming to Congress and her actions in the Congress have been consistent,” Mr. Hoyer said of the Georgia representative.
“No matter what @GOPLeader does it would never be enough for the hate America Democrats,” Mrs. Greene said on Twitter Wednesday. On Tuesday, she said she had raised more than $160,000 Tuesday after Senate Republicans, including GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, criticized her comments.
Stripping a lawmaker of committee assignments is seen as a public rebuke and a severe punishment by taking away an important venue to shape legislation and diminishing the lawmaker’s influence for voters at home. In recent years, former GOP Iowa Rep. Steve King was stripped of his assignments by fellow Republicans in 2019 for questioning in a newspaper interview what was wrong with white supremacy. He lost his primary in 2020.
Mrs. Greene emerged as the most contentious new House Republican before arriving in Washington. While running for the GOP nomination in a solidly Republican district in Georgia last year, her online activity began to draw attention, including posts tying her to QAnon and other conspiracy theories, as well as comments vilifying Muslims and other groups.
In recent weeks, additional past social-media posts have emerged, including remarks casting doubt on who was responsible for mass shootings, condoning violence against Democratic leaders and questioning whether a plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Mrs. Greene has scoffed at wearing a mask in the Capitol complex to protect against the spread of Covid-19, including when lawmakers were trapped in a room together during the Jan. 6 attack. Several House Democrats later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Some Republicans question whether she should be punished for comments largely made before she became a member of Congress and are reluctant to be seen as giving into Democratic pressure. Many of the details of Mrs. Greene’s past embrace of conspiracy theories were known when voters elected her in November.
“For literally centuries, the majority in the House—whether that be Republican or Democrat—has always allowed the minority to choose from their ranks who will sit on as many committee seats as they are allotted for that Congress,” Rep. Brian Babin (R., Texas) said on Facebook. Democrats’ move to push a Republican out of committees “would shatter that precedent,” he said.
Foreshadowing the fights that could lie ahead if Republicans were to win back the House, Mr. Babin introduced an amendment that would instead remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and leave Mrs. Greene undisturbed. Ms. Omar drew criticism in 2019 when she made comments suggesting that lawmakers’ support for Israel was driven by money from a pro-Israel group. She later apologized.
“Republicans will do anything to distract from the fact that they have not only allowed but elevated members of their own caucus who encourage violence,” Ms. Omar said Wednesday.
Separately, Ms. Cheney fended off an effort from Mr. Trump’s loyalists to oust her from leadership after her vote to impeach the former president. Some Republicans questioned whether she could still effectively serve in her leadership role in charge of GOP messaging given her stance on Mr. Trump, when so many House Republicans remain loyal to him. Critics were particularly annoyed that she put out a fiery statement the night before the impeachment vote, enabling Democrats to use her words to bolster their own arguments.
“We really did have a terrific vote tonight,” Ms. Cheney said after the meeting ended. She said the party had focused on “laying out what we’re going to do going forward, as well as making clear that we’re not going to be divided and that we’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership.”
The fight has been brewing for months, ever since Ms. Cheney at one point supported a primary opponent for Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.), who has often angered GOP leaders. Mr. Massie forced the full House to return to Washington for a coronavirus-aid vote in late March. Still, siding with a primary opponent is an unusual step for GOP leaders, who traditionally back their own incumbents and occasionally remain neutral when members have made missteps.
“This civil war in the Republican party that we may be on the precipice of is not one in which the outsiders fired the first shot,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), who flew to Wyoming to hold a rally against Ms. Cheney last week. “It’s not going to be a situation where people like Liz Cheney are going to be able to try to take out folks like Thomas Massie and that those of us that are outsiders are not going to return some political fire.”
Ousting Ms. Cheney from leadership would have blunted the rapid ascent she had made through GOP ranks since being elected to the House in 2016. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she has long been viewed as a rival to Mr. McCarthy and potentially the first Republican woman to serve as House speaker.
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