WASHINGTON - Republicans in the House of Representatives voted Wednesday morning to strip Rep. Liz Cheney of her leadership position.
Cheney, R-Wy., is no longer the Chair of the House Republican Conference, nor is she the third highest-ranking House Republican. Although she easily survived a similar threat of removal in February, she’d fallen out of favor with her Republican colleagues with her public criticism of former President Donald Trump for falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Her removal again proves the amount of influence Trump still wields inside the Grand Old Party. But even after being demoted, Cheney stood her ground.
"We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace ‘the big lie’ and embrace the Constitution," Cheney said following the vote to remove her from leadership. "And going forward, the nation needs a strong Republican Party. The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism."
Cheney said she doesn’t feel betrayed by Wednesday’s vote. She said it’s an indication of where the party is and where she wants to bring it back from — even if it means working against any future Trump White House bid.
"I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the oval office," Cheney vowed. "We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution. And I think it’s very important to make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the Constitution."
Cheney is expected to be replaced by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. Once a Trump critic in her own right, Stefanik grew to embrace him much like the rest of the party.
Critics of Stefanik worry she is too much of a moderate to hold a leadership role in a party that has shifted further right.
Cheney’s voting record has been much more supportive of Trump’s agenda than Stefanik’s, but Cheney has taken issue with Trump for falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.
Even though Trump’s fraud claims have been disproven by state and federal election officials many times over, many of Cheney’s fellow Republicans have legitimized them. Several GOP-held state legislatures have passed new voter laws built around alleged fraud.
In a final act of defiance, Cheney took to the near-empty House floor on Tuesday to rebuke the GOP for allowing Trump’s continued dominance of the party.
"We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed," Cheney said on the House floor. "I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy."
Cheney has blamed Trump’s false claims for inciting the violent pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. She was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of Trump’s second impeachment for inciting the riot.
And like those Republicans, Cheney did not speak at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump used that conference to make his first public appearance since leaving office.
Ahead of the event, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump should be allowed to headline CPAC. But just seconds later, Cheney said she doesn’t "believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country."
Reporters laughed as McCarthy awkwardly concluded the press conference with, "On that high note, thank you all very much."
Many of Cheney’s critics have not taken issue with her position on Trump, rather her unwavering commitment to express them publically.
"It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about the focus" of House Republicans, Whip Steve Scalise said Tuesday.
Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wy., speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Dec. 17, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
McCarthy had signaled his desire to remove Cheney for several weeks. In his Monday note, which mentioned neither her nor Trump by name, McCarthy seemed to provide whatever cover hesitant GOP lawmakers might need to toss Cheney from her position.
"If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democratic agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team," McCarthy wrote. "Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday."
This story was reported from Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed.