Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of weighing in on an internal conflict among House Republicans, praising Rep. Liz Cheney for her “deep convictions” and “courage” as she faces attacks from former President Donald Trump’s allies.
Cheney, the third-ranking House GOP leader, has come under fire for her vote to impeach the former president as well as her sharp criticism of his words and actions.
“Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them,” McConnell said in a statement. “She is an important leader in our party and in our nation. I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation.”
McConnell’s backing of Cheney is clear sign of the struggle within the Republican Party over how much influence Trump will continue to exert even after he lost the White House to Democrat Joe Biden and the GOP lost control of the Senate. Trump’s has been accused of stoking the mob that stormed the Capitol last month; for this he was impeached by the U.S. House for an unprecedented second time, something that's divided Republicans in a way that few of the political battles of the last four years did.
It comes before a meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, of House Republicans convened by their leader, Kevin McCarthy. Several lawmakers and aides said Cheney’s role as Republican conference chair is sure to come up.
Some members, including Ohio's Jim Jordan and Arizona's Andy Biggs, have called for Cheney to be stripped of her leadership post. Last week, Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has closely aligned himself with Trump, went to Cheney’s home state of Wyoming for a rally denouncing her. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., called in to the event, in Cheyenne, by telephone.
But it’s not clear that enough Republicans would vote to oust Cheney.
McCarthy has said that while he still supports her, she has to answer to the conference. Any vote to remove her would be private, and no one on either side of the dispute would know who did what.
‘Never Been a Greater Betrayal’
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the highest-ranking Republican to call for Trump’s removal from office, saying there has “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Cheney voted against Trump’s impeachment in late 2019 but has had other public breaks with the now-former president and his House Republican supporters before last month’s impeachment vote. Those included disagreements on foreign policy, how Trump handled the coronavirus pandemic and her backing of a primary challenger to Republican Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky.
Cheney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on McConnell’s remarks.
Some of the nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump also have come under pressure from within the party and from GOP officials in their home states. They, as well as Cheney, could face primary challenges.
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