WASHINGTON – Inland Northwest Republicans in Congress kept quiet after the House GOP conference voted Wednesday to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from the party’s third-ranking leadership role over the Wyoming Republican’s ongoing criticism of former President Donald Trump.
Through spokespeople, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington and Russ Fulcher, whose district includes North Idaho, declined to comment on the decision, conducted by a voice vote Wednesday. Central Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse did not respond to questions about it.
“It shows the extent to which the Trump wing of the party has taken complete control of the party, to the extent that they can oust leaders,” said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University. “On the other hand, I suspect Liz Cheney is going to be an important rallying symbol for those who are still in the party and are concerned about the direction the party is going.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a southwest Washington Republican who worked as an aide in McMorris Rodgers’ office before running for office herself, told the Seattle Times through a spokesman on Tuesday she would vote to keep Cheney as conference chair, a role charged with leading the party’s messaging efforts. McMorris Rodgers served as House GOP conference chairwoman before Cheney for six years, stepping down from the role in 2018.
Herrera Beutler and Newhouse, along with Cheney, were among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. All 10 have faced blowback for their votes, including calls to step down from local GOP leaders and voters in their districts who support the former president.
A rift emerged within the party after Jan. 6, when more than half of House Republicans and six GOP senators returned to the Capitol after Trump supporters ransacked the building and objected to the presidential election results. In the weeks that followed, both Trump and his opponents within the GOP considered breaking off into new parties.
In the latest salvo, the New York Times reported Tuesday that more than 100 Republicans are set to release a letter threatening to form a third party if the GOP does not divorce itself from Trump.
“Realistically, can that go someplace? I sort of doubt it,” Clayton said. “I see it more as sort of a shot across the bow of Republican leaders to take a different tack.”
Cheney previously survived a vote to remove her from her leadership role in February, when she had the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican. Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, whose support for Trump’s unfounded claim that the election was rigged has outweighed her relatively centrist voting record in the eyes of Trump loyalists.
Some House Republicans oppose Stefanik, who they see as insufficiently conservative or as a token woman in the 86%-male House GOP conference. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said Wednesday he would challenge Stefanik for the role, but the New York lawmaker appears on track to replace Cheney.
Editor’s note: This story originally said the vote to remove Cheney took place via secret ballot. While such votes are typically conducted by secret ballot, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy changed the rules Wednesday to decide Cheney’s fate by an unrecorded voice vote.
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