Democratic aides say the GOP leadership jockeying is evidence of the Republican Party’s unwavering allegiance to Trump.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Congresswoman Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has had enough of Republicans supporting former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election — and in reaction, the conference is set to cast a vote next week on whether to replace her.
Cheney, who represents Wyoming, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Wednesday outlining her frustration with the situation.
She wrote that the 45th president, who incited an insurrectionist attack on the seat of U.S. democracy in January, still hasn’t learned to pare back his rhetoric, adding Trump “is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law.”
About a month after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference and gave a speech that amounted to a 90-minute tirade where the former president teased a potential second run for the White House.
But just four days before, Cheney began to splinter from her party. She disagreed with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the ex-president should speak at CPAC, questioning whether Trump should be the face of the Republican Party after the Jan. 6 attack.
Even after Cheney voted alongside a handful of House Republicans to impeach Trump for his actions surrounding the Capitol riot, the GOP voted to keep her in her leadership role. But since Cheney’s pushback against McCarthy in February, the party has rejected her comments and sought to replace her.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, is poised to take her place. Backed by the former president, McCarthy and Congressman Steve Scalise – a Louisiana Republican who serves as the House GOP whip – Stefanik campaigned on moderate positions but gained a higher profile during Trump’s first impeachment. Republicans could vote as early as May 12 to replace Cheney, which is when the caucus is expected to meet next after a two-week break.
One Democratic aide told Courthouse News that although Republican ideals had always misaligned with Democrats, Cheney at minimum maintained basic policy ideals and principles. They said the attempt to remove her is an acknowledgement by Republican leadership that it was beholden to Trump, casting aside the Constitution, democracy and what is best for the country.
Another Democratic aide said Cheney’s potential ousting is an acceleration of self-evident Republican trends already advanced for decades. It was not a new idea, the aide said, that Republicans want to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot. In the past there had always been at least the appearance that Republicans respected democratic institutions, the aide said, but now the only loyalty test that matters is allegiance to a single person.
While a large part of the new GOP dynamic is appeasing the former president, another is a willingness to abandon democratic norms, certain American values and other closely held beliefs for pursuing and retaining social and political power, the aide said.
They said this shift is aided in part by the landscape of media covering Capitol Hill. Alternate media bubbles that give lawmakers platforms to espouse Trump’s ideals make it harder for more moderate members of the Republican Party to have a voice, the aide said, and that environment has also made it easier for those politicians abdicate constitutional responsibility.