House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy backs ousting Liz Cheney from leadership over her criticism of Trump while claiming Republicans ’embrace free thought and debate’

kevin mccarthy liz cheney side by side
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, right, listens to Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming at a Republican press conference.

  • House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that his caucus will vote on Wednesday on whether to recall Rep. Liz Cheney from leadership.
  • McCarthy argued that Cheney’s criticism of Trump and the GOP’s election lies had become a distraction.
  • He simultaneously argued that Republicans “embrace free thought and debate.”
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House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy announced in a Monday letter to his caucus that it will vote on Wednesday on whether to recall Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position amid widespread opposition to her within the party.

McCarthy suggested that Cheney’s criticism of the party’s election lies, which provoked the Capitol riot, had “distracted” her from the work of promoting the Republican agenda. He said that after hearing from “so many” of his members, it had become “clear that we need to make a change.”

“Each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to sieze the future,” McCarthy said. “If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as not to detract from the efforts of our collective team.”

Cheney, the House GOP conference chair and third-highest ranking member, has accused many of her fellow Republicans of lying about voter fraud and the election being “rigged” by Democrats. She’s argued that Trump and his allies are “poisoning our democratic system.”

McCarthy insisted that the Republican Party is a “big tent” and encourages internal debate, even as he argued that such a debate was detrimental to the party’s efforts to regain the House majority in 2022 and implement its agenda.

“Unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate,” he said.

Many Republican lawmakers have turned on Cheney since she became one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol attack. Cheney has since urged her party to support a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot — something McCarthy and many others oppose.

McCarthy on Sunday publicly endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney in leadership after telling Fox hosts in a leaked conversation that he had “lost confidence” in Cheney and “had it with her.” Cheney condemned the “dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality” in an op-ed published in The Washington Post last Wednesday.

A handful of Republicans have spoken up in Cheney’s defense. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah tweeted on Monday that ousting Cheney would be politically unwise for the party.

“Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few,” he said.

McCarthy has changed his tune on the president’s complicity in the Capitol attack since January. On Jan. 7, McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for the riot and argued “he should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” McCarthy also rejected the false claim, made by Trump and others on the right, that the Capitol rioters included Black Lives Matter protesters and members of antifa.

But last month, after it had become clear that Trump remained a powerful force in the GOP and popular with the party’s base, McCarthy defended Trump’s response to the riot.

“What I talked to President Trump about, I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn’t see it,” McCarthy told Fox News. “What he ended the call was saying — telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did, he put a video out later.”

Hours after the attack began, Trump released a video expressing sympathy for the “very special” rioters and gently urged them to “go home.”

“I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now,” Trump said. “We love you. You’re very special.”

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