WASHINGTON — House Republicans are preparing to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from the No. 3 Republican position in the House and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. Why? Is Stefanik more conservative than Cheney? No, Cheney has an 80% lifetime rating with Heritage Action for America compared with a 48% rating for Stefanik.
Well, did she vote more loyally with President Trump? No, Cheney voted with Trump 92.9% of the time, while Stefanik voted with Trump just 77.7% of the time. Indeed, Stefanik steadfastly opposed key elements of the Trump agenda. She voted against Trump’s singular legislative achievement — his 2017 tax reform bill — and against making his tax cuts permanent. She voted to block Trump from withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. She voted to condemn Trump for calling on the courts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. She voted to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border so he could fund the border wall, and then voted to override Trump’s veto of a bill that reversed his emergency declaration. Trump calls Cheney a “warmongering fool” who wants to “fight ridiculous, endless wars,” but Stefanik voted with Cheney to oppose Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.
That is not all. In his statement Wednesday supporting Cheney’s ouster, Trump once again slammed the congressional certification of the 2020 election results, declaring, “Had Mike Pence referred the information on six states (only need two) back to State Legislatures ... we would have had a far different Presidential result.” But Stefanik voted to certify the election results in Arizona (though not Pennsylvania).
Don’t get me wrong; I like Stefanik. We were colleagues in the George W. Bush administration, and I agree wholeheartedly with some (though not all) of her Trump-dissenting votes. But if this is a fight about loyalty to Trump — and it is — then Cheney has a far better record of supporting the Trump agenda than Stefanik does.
So why is Trump giving Stefanik his “COMPLETE and TOTAL endorsement” to replace Cheney? Because none of these votes matter to the former president. This is not about ideology or public policy. It’s not even loyalty to Trumpism. It’s about loyalty to Trump. And even though Cheney supported Trump’s agenda in Congress, she must be purged because she supported impeachment and the certification of the election — and refuses to apologize for it.
One anonymous GOP House member told 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.” But it is Stefanik who is out of sync with the majority of the Republican conference on the issues. Cheney is being ousted by her Republican colleagues, and replaced by someone who opposed much of Trump’s agenda, for one reason and one reason only: because she is not sufficiently obeisant to the former president.
After the Jan. 6 riot, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) declared on the House floor that “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters” and demanded that Trump take “immediate action” to “accept his share of responsibility.” While McCarthy didn’t support impeachment, he supported what would have been a resolution to censure Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riots — which would have been a historic rebuke.
The real difference between Cheney and McCarthy? McCarthy has backtracked on his criticism of Trump, while Cheney refuses to do so. After the riots, McCarthy declared that Trump “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” but now he says the opposite, telling Fox News Sunday that Trump told him on the phone during the riot that he would “put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.” Yes, several hours later — and telling the rioters that he loved them and that they were “very special.” He did not condemn the riots until the next day. Cheney’s crime is that she won’t follow McCarthy’s lead and try to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6.
House Republicans say Cheney is a distraction from their efforts to win back the majority in 2022 and check the Biden administration’s worst excesses. Sorry, it is Trump who is attacking Cheney and insisting the election was stolen. She just refuses to go along with that lie. What is the bigger distraction? Cheney’s tweets responding to Trump? Or the House Republican leadership feeding the left-wing media with weeks of drama over GOP fratricide with this shameful effort to purge her?