- House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is the highest-ranking female Republican in Congress.
- After she publicly fist-bumped Biden and continued to criticize Trump, some want her out of leadership.
- Cheney is a veteran of Republican politics, but today’s GOP differs greatly from even 5 years ago.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
For years, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming has been seen as a rising star within the party, a straight-talking conservative woman from a dynastic Republican family who ascended to House leadership only two years after her first congressional race.
Cheney was first elected to office on the same day that former President Donald Trump was voted into the White House in 2016.
However, over four years later, their paths have sharply diverged.
Unlike most members of her party, Cheney has been unusually candid in her criticism of Trump, especially as it relates to the damage that she feels the former president caused to the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power.
“What we saw, first hand, on Jan. 6 was a threat to this system,” she said during a February foreign policy event sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. “What happened on that day must never happen again.”
Trump, even in defeat, still holds an iron grip over most of the party, and he has zeroed in on ensuring Cheney’s political defeat.
During his keynote speech at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida, the former president called out Cheney as a “warmonger,” with the mention of her name resulting in a chorus of boos.
“The good news is in her state, she’s been censured and in her state her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” he said at the time. “So hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election.”
In February, Cheney faced a mutiny from some of the most conservative elements of the party after her vote to impeach Trump, but the GOP caucus kept her in leadership in a 145-61 vote.
However, the past few weeks have seen a cascade of developments that seriously imperil Cheney’s leadership role — and her future within the party — a stunning reversal for a candidate who in the past has been touted as a potential House speaker, US senator, or president.
Trump continues to dominate GOP politics
During the party’s House legislative retreat in Florida last week, the schism between Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Cheney was increasingly apparent.
McCarthy, who in February publicly backed Cheney remaining in leadership, wouldn’t say if she should remain in her role when asked if she was still a “good fit.”
“That’s a question for the conference,” he said.
In an interview with Politico last week, the California Republican also chided Cheney for her continued criticism of Trump.
“There’s a responsibility, if you’re gonna be in leadership, leaders eat last,” he said. “And when leaders try to go out, and not work as one team, it creates difficulties.”
Last Wednesday, Cheney gave a fist bump to President Joe Biden before his first address to a joint session of Congress, sending partisans into a tizzy.
Responding to attacks from the party’s right flank, Cheney reaffirmed her conservatism while calling for a need to be conciliatory to people with opposing views.
“I disagree strongly w/@JoeBiden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way,” Cheney tweeted on Thursday. “We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.”
“She is alienating herself from the conference”
Cheney’s opinions have infuriated conservatives who feel that she isn’t projecting a unified front against Democrats — with many hoping to oust her from leadership.
“It’s at a boiling point,” said one GOP lawmaker to The Hill. “This isn’t about Liz Cheney wanting to impeach Donald Trump; this isn’t about Donald Trump at all. It’s about Liz Cheney being completely out of synch with the majority of our conference.”
The legislator told The Hill that Cheney’s actions were becoming the subject of text conversations among House GOP colleagues.
“As we’re focused on unifying the Republican conference and our mission to win back the majority, she is focused on the past and proving a point,” the lawmaker told The Hill. “She is alienating herself from the conference, and I have to imagine if she doesn’t resign there will be a new vote in the near future and the result will be lopsided in the opposite direction of what it was before.”
GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told Axios last Friday that Cheney’s comments were “an unwelcome distraction” and openly questioned whether she would still be on the leadership team in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, GOP Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas predicted that Cheney would be out of leadership by the end of the month.
“Liz Cheney has promised she will campaign on impeaching Trump ‘every day of the week,'” he tweeted. “Good luck with that, Liz! PREDICTION: she’ll be out of her GOP leadership role by month’s end!”
Cheney is navigating a different GOP than the one she once knew
Cheney is well-versed in the ways of Republican politics in Washington, DC.
Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a former congressman from Wyoming who also served as House Republican Conference Chair before becoming House Minority Whip and then Secretary of Defense.
A graduate of Colorado College and the University of Chicago Law School, the congresswoman practiced law before embarking on a career with the State Department, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs under then-President George W. Bush.
She has long been a defense hawk, a position in line with many Republicans from the second Bush administration.
However, in a Trump-dominated GOP, Cheney is encountering forces that are different than anything she’s had to deal with in the past. Simply having conservative credentials isn’t enough anymore.
Cheney still has her boosters within the caucus
Cheney is not without her allies, though, as they delivered votes for her in the leadership secret ballot earlier this year.
GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who also voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Capitol riot, emphasized that Cheney was one of the few Republicans willing to call out the former president’s debunked election claims.
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit,” he told The Hill. “Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. If that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”
Gonzalez told The Hill he would back Cheney if a second leadership vote is held.
As the GOP tries to combat its electoral difficulties with suburban women and minority voters, another Cheney ally told The Hill that her presence lends the argument that the party is welcoming to all.
“Does Cheney’s stubborn insistence to stick with her conviction rub some of us wrong? Yes. But I sure wish McCarthy realizes that it benefits us in the long run if we have one member of our leadership team who won’t kiss Trump’s ass,” the Cheney ally said. “It’s good for the Republican party.”