For Republican leaders, Liz Cheney is the pain that will not go away

WASHINGTON – Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Has made the political life of Parliamentary Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy hell this year – and there are no easy fixes.

Cheney fanned the flames on Monday, tearing apart former President Donald Trump for calling his ouster “THE BIG LIE.”

“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney wrote on Twitter. “Anyone who claims this is the case is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their backs on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system.”

The ongoing hostilities between the former president and Cheney, the third House Republican, expose and deepen the underlying tension in McCarthy’s efforts to bring the GOP back to a majority. For this to happen, many Republicans feel their party needs to be bigger, more unified, and hyper-focused on defeating Democratic politicians and candidates.

The latter two are not served by a top House GOP official hitting Trump, who remains popular with many party members. Most Republican lawmakers would prefer Cheney to aim his beards at President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or really anyone who is not a GOP member. Instead, Cheney punched Biden as he entered the House chamber to deliver a speech at a joint session of Congress last week.

At the same time, Cheney’s challenges to the former president give hope to Republican-leaning voters who cannot stand Trump, his role in the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill, or his efforts to delegitimize his defeat. She also has supporters within the Republican Conference who could be alienated if McCarthy helps her oust from the post of Republican Conference chairman.

That’s where the catch lies for McCarthy, who aided Cheney in February when she defeated an attempt by her colleagues to strip her of her leadership position. The final tally was 145 for Cheney, 61 against.

“He’s got his eyes on this award,” a former Republican leadership adviser said of McCarthy’s goal of winning a majority next November. “The only way to take over the House is to have a big tent. The party needs people like Liz, and they recognize it.”

McCarthy’s conundrum reflects a larger divide among GOP loyalists. While Trump remains the most dominant single force in Republican politics, an NBC News poll released last week found that 44% of GOP voters say they support Trump more than the party and 50% say the party is coming. first.

McCarthy declined to say last week if he thought Cheney was a “good fit” for her job, a dodge that has been widely interpreted as a sign of waning support for her.

“It’s a question for the conference,” McCarthy said at a Republican conference retreat in Florida on Tuesday. “I think from a point of view, if you’re sitting here in a policy-centric retreat focused on the future of becoming an American in the next century, and you’re talking about something else, you’re not productive. . “

McCarthy has already found that getting in the way with Trump is bad for his position in the party. After blaming some of the blame for the Capitol Riot on Trump in January, McCarthy rushed to Florida to beg pardon with the former president.

He just doesn’t have a lot of good options at the moment.

Longer term, Cheney’s seat in the House could be at risk, as Trump has pledged to back one of his main challengers. But she found her positioning lucrative. She raised a personal best of $ 1.5 million in the first quarter of 2021, a harvest that included donations from political action committees associated with Koch Industries, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and a host of corporations brand.

Cheney’s primary isn’t until August next year, leaving McCarthy in the crossfire for what amounts to several political eons. He’s unlikely to be able to negotiate a detente between Trump and Cheney, who both seem comfortable with escalation.

Instant conventional wisdom in political circles argues that Cheney will have to lose her place because she does not agree with her colleagues or their constituents. Even some of his allies say so.

“If a prerequisite for running our conference continues to lie to our constituents, then Liz is not the best solution,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, told The Hill newspaper on Friday. “Liz is going to say what she thinks. It will stand on the principle. And if it’s going to distract people, she’s not the best person. I wish it hadn’t.

But a second push to impeach Cheney could tear the Republican conference apart again – and keep her focus inward – while not robbing it of a platform. As the daughter of a former vice president and as an active executioner of Trump, she would be no less interesting to the public if she were sacked. In other words, any attempt to bring her down could only make her more powerful.

Whether or not she stays in management, Cheney will likely be a pain in McCarthy’s neck for a long time to come.

About Therese Williams

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