House Republicans are gearing up for a referendum on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s role in leadership this week after she supported Democrats’ rushed second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
Cheney ignited backlash from her own party three weeks ago when she announced her support for Democrats’ plan to remove the outgoing president days before the end of his term. The three-term Wyoming congresswoman claimed her choice to indict the president whose restrained foreign policy approach she frequently opposed was a “vote of conscience.”
The timing of her move on the eve of the vote hurt members of the caucus she ostensibly leads, according to many members. They also cited the extreme rhetoric she used in pushing for Trump’s removal from office.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney claimed of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots in a statement frequently quoted by Democrats and the media. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
The vote, taken at the height of the media’s anti-Trump frenzy, angered and disappointed many of her colleagues and constituents, already provoking a primary challenge back home, a censure by members of her own state party, and now a threat to derail her from House leadership. Cheney had previously upset members of her conference with lackluster fundraising, an inability to recruit candidates, and support for primary opponents of a member who opposes her preferred levels of foreign interventionism.
While members repeatedly said they didn’t necessarily have a problem with a random member of the Republican conference voting for impeachment, they viewed a member of leadership doing so as a scandal. One Republican recounted the punishment received when this person voted against a rule change leadership sought. How could Cheney remain in leadership after helping the Democrats’ push to divide the Republican Party and demoralize its voters, the member wondered.
“I like Liz personally,” said another member on condition of anonymity, “but she should not be in leadership. You can’t throw your members under the bus. You can’t be a talking point Democrats use against every other member.”
A poll out last week reveals Cheney’s popularity in Wyoming plummeted following her latest stunt. A survey conducted by Trump pollster John McLaughlin found only 10 percent of GOP primary voters reported willingness to vote for their at-large representative in next year’s party contest. Only 13 percent said they would support the incumbent’s re-election in the general pending survival in the primary.
“If Liz Cheney had a rally with all of her supporters, they could likely meet inside one of the elevators in the capital, and still have plenty of room for social distancing,” Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz blasted outside the Wyoming statehouse to hundreds demonstrating their opposition to Cheney in Cheyenne last week.