The Republican Conference’s second-highest ranking member publicly called for the removal of GOP conference chair Liz Cheney, who has repeatedly criticized former President Trump for spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election and attempting to downplay the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
According to his spokesperson, Louisiana Minority Whip Steve Scalise will support New York Representative Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney.
“House Republicans must be solely focused on retaking the House in 2022 and fighting Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing so, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair,” Scalise’s communications director Lauren Fine said in a statement.
Although Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that House Republicans were losing faith in the current conference chair, the statement is the first explicit call from GOP House leadership for Cheney’s removal.
In January, Cheney was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump on a charge of incitement of insurgency. With McCarthy’s help, she resisted an attempt by some conservatives to depose her as leader in early February.
Cheney has repeatedly rebuffed Mr. Trump’s false claim that the election was rigged. Cheney stated on Monday that Republicans could not accept the “poison” of this claim or “whitewash” Mr. Trump’s supporters’ January 6 attack.
“We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy,” Cheney said in remarks at a conference in Georgia. “We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”
Because Cheney is the highest-ranking female in Republican leadership, replacing her with Stefanik would avoid the negative optics of removing a woman from her position. Stefanik, 36, is regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party, owing in large part to her vocal support for Mr. Trump and her efforts to recruit Republican women as candidates.
During the impeachment hearings against Mr. Trump in 2019, Stefanik emerged as one of his staunchest supporters, using her position on the Intelligence Committee to grill witnesses. Mr. Trump took notice of this, tweeting at the time, “a new Republican Star is born.”
Stefanik also backed Mr. Trump’s false claims that the election was rigged and voted in several states against certifying Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory. In a statement defending her votes, she stated incorrectly that 140,000 votes in Fulton County, Georgia, were invalid. A source close to former President Trump confirmed that he is supportive of Stefanik’s bid for conference chair.
Stefanik is well-known for her efforts to help Republican women enter politics, in addition to her support for Mr. Trump. Stefanik’s Republican women’s political action committee was involved in several races during the last election cycle, supporting 18 freshmen women who won in 2020.
Few Republicans have come out in Cheney’s defense. On Tuesday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney tweeted his support for Cheney, saying she “refuses to lie.” On Wednesday, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of the other House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, expressed his support for Cheney.
McCarthy criticized Mr. Trump in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 attack, saying on January 13 that the former president bore “responsibility” for the incident and arguing for censuring him. McCarthy, on the other hand, has since changed his tune and sought to align himself more closely with Mr. Trump. Republicans have a chance to retake the House in 2022, with McCarthy atop the ticket. Because Mr. Trump remains very popular among Republican voters, some congressional Republicans have continued to defend the president and his election-related lies in order to maintain their support.
Cheney’s spokesperson responded to McCarthy’s remarks by saying that Cheney would not spread false information about the election or downplay the attack on the Capitol.
“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on January 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue,” spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a statement on Tuesday.