House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy points to ‘the largest missed jobs report’ in more than two decades, the ‘destruction of our energy’ and the migrant surge at the southern border as reasons for why he believes the Democrats are hurting America.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., will likely become the highest-ranking female Republican in American government by midday Wednesday. It’s all but a fait accompli that the House GOPers will bounce House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from her post and install Stefanik.
But the fight over Stefanik or Cheney frankly has very little to do with either of them.
This is a vote about former President Trump and his continued domination of the Republican Party.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., chairs the Republican Study Committee, the largest bloc of conservatives in the House. Many expect Banks could be a candidate for the GOP leadership sooner rather than later. Cheney has called out Trump and fellow Republicans over purported fraud in the election and the Jan. 6 insurrection. But during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Banks explained that very discussion is Cheney’s transgression.
“In her leadership post, she doesn’t just represent their district. They represent 212 members of the Republican Conference. And right now, it’s clear that she doesn’t represent the views of the majority of our conference or the focus that all of us have to win back the majority,” said Banks.
Cheney is crossways with most House Republicans. That’s why House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., ditched Cheney. The fight over Cheney is really a partial relitigation of the 2020 election and how the party remains attached to the former president as it tries to reclaim the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms.
Cheney voted to certify the Electoral College on Jan. 6. Two-thirds of all House Republicans voted to contest the electoral results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Many House Republicans also wanted to challenge the electoral votes from Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Georgia but couldn’t round up a Senate petitioner to launch a congressional debate on Jan. 6. Then, Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president after the riot. And then, Cheney continued talk about the riot and how the president and many of her colleagues pushed the narrative that Trump may actually have won.
Many House Republicans say they were OK with Cheney voting to impeach. It was a vote of conscience – although there’s a lot of doubt whether Republicans actually are OK with her voting that way. The Ohio Republican Party voted to censure Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, last week. He also voted to impeach the former president.
House Republicans say the problem with Cheney is that she “continued” to talk about the riot and the Electoral College after surviving a no-confidence vote in February. But a lot has developed since that vote. Republicans have discovered that Trump remains the most powerful force in the GOP. McCarthy teamed up with the former president, earning a promise to help Republicans flip the House. And, because many Republican voters still support Trump, most House GOPers are afraid to stand against him, lest he excoriate them or back a primary challenger.
On Monday, Trump declared that Republicans have “a massive opportunity to upgrade” from “warmonger” Cheney to “gifted communicator” Stefanik.
“We need someone in Leadership who has experience flipping districts from Blue to Red as we approach the important 2022 midterms, and that’s Elise!” Trump said in a statement. “She knows how to win, which is what we need!”
Last week, Trump again called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “gutless and clueless” for failing to push the election fraud line. He then scorched former Vice President Mike Pence for not fighting harder to overturn the electoral result as he presided over the Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 6 – even though widespread election fraud isn’t true and all 50 states certified their electoral votes.
So this explains the conundrum facing Cheney.
“Are you with Trump and the ‘Big Lie’ or are you with the facts and arguably more ideologically conservative view of Republicanism?” asked longtime congressional observer David Hawkings about Cheney. “She is on the wrong side of that. So, she has to be sacrificed.”
Few see any path for Cheney to prevail on Wednesday.
Stefanik emerged as a staunch supporter of Trump during the 2019 impeachment hearings. After watching Stefanik battle with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the former president tweeted “A new Republican Star is born.”
Ironically, Stefanik used to back Cheney.
“I was very proud to nominate you to serve as our Conference Chair,” said Stefanik of the Wyoming congresswoman at event for GOP women on Jan. 17, 2019. “That is the highest position of women in the Republican Conference and we think you’re a huge asset in that role.”
Politicians usually stand by fellow lawmakers from their home state and same party when they hit a rough patch. But that’s not the case with Cheney.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., completely punted when asked about Cheney by colleague Sandra Smith on Fox.
“You’re talking about the House there. My focus is in terms of President Trump. He brings incredible energy to our voters,” said Barrasso.
When Smith followed up, Barrasso never threw Cheney a lifeline.
“The House will make that decision,” said Barrasso.
Former Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., occupied the same seat Cheney now holds from 1995 to 2009.
“I definitely think she’s out of step with the state,” said Cubin. “She’s just out on a raft by herself.”
Ironically, many of Cheney’s best defenders are now across the aisle.
“I do commend Liz Cheney for her courage. For her patriotism,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“I think Liz Cheney’s greatest offense apparently is she is principled and she believes in the truth,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., at a forum with the Washington Post. “She is obviously a very conservative Republican from the state of Wyoming. So it’s not a question of ideology. It’s a question of cult. Of personality. That if you are not 1,000% for Donald Trump, somehow you’re not a good Republican.”
And there’s the rub. Ironically, Stefanik isn’t as conservative as Cheney.
Cheney voted 93% of the time with Trump. Stefanik only sided with the former president 78% of the time. Heritage Action for America granted Cheney a score of 82% on its scorecard. Stefanik garnered 56%. In fact, Stefanik’s Heritage Action for America figure was as low as 24% for the Congress running from 2017 to 2019.
House Republicans haven’t booted a Conference chair since 1998. Republicans showed then-conference Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, the door after the GOP didn’t perform as well as they hoped in that fall’s midterm elections. Republicans tapped then-Rep. JC Watts, R-Okla., for the job. But Boehner had the last laugh. He returned to leadership as majority leader in an upset victory in 2006. Boehner seized the speaker’s gavel in 2011.
There’s a lot of chatter now that Cheney could be playing the long game – although no one knows what that really means in these circumstances.
So we’ll know officially what Republicans think of Cheney on Wednesday.
Stefanik sees a pathway into leadership through Trump. McCarthy believes that the only way Republicans can win the House is with Trump’s assistance. If Republicans are victorious, McCarthy likely becomes speaker. It’s no surprise that these political leaders are deciding to hook their wagons to the one figure who they believe can help them matriculate politically.
McCarthy spoke about the perils of serving in Congress at the same 2019 event where Stefanik lauded Cheney’s credentials.
“We probably have the only occupation in the world that every two years, we get to know the exact number of people who dislike us,” said McCarthy.
“Every day, sometimes,” chimed in Cheney.
The congresswoman didn’t have to wait two years to hear what her fellow Republicans thought of her.
That’s because she hears their views “every day” now.