House GOP leader amps up pressure on Cheney over Trump barbs

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (May 4, 2021) — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stepped up the pressure on No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney on Tuesday, claiming rank-and-file concerns about “her ability to carry out her job” as she continues to attack former President Donald Trump.

Rather than standing by Cheney — as he did during a failed effort to oust her in February — McCarthy essentially planted himself in the camp of her critics. His positioning with her detractors and their increasingly outspoken attacks suggest her hold on her leadership job is in renewed peril.

“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out her job as conference chair, to carry out the message," said McCarthy, R-Calif. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority. Remember, majorities are not given. They are earned.”

McCarthy's remarks come with Republicans optimistic about their chances of winning back control of the House in the 2022 elections. The GOP believes it has a trove of issues to use against Democrats and wants the focus there, not on internal party rifts.

But between now and next year's elections, the GOP must resolve the power struggle between the party's pro-Trump loyalists and those who continue to criticize Trump...even though he is no longer the president.

The fight between Cheney and her critics stands as a microcosm of that battle. It also puts the GOP in the awkward position of seeking to oust its highest-ranking woman from her post at a time when the party is trying to erode Democrats' decisive advantage among female voters.

McCarthy was interviewed a day after Trump mounted a fresh offensive on his assertions that there were cases of fraudulent voting in last November's election.

Trump critics have labeled his claims “The Big Lie,” and he issued a statement trying to claim that moniker himself.

“The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” he wrote.

But Cheney, R-Wyo., quickly fired back. She was among 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach Trump after the January 6th protest at the U.S. Capitol.

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

In response to Cheney, Trump issued a fresh statement reiterating his desire to see her defeated by another Republican in next year’s Wyoming GOP primary and claiming that people in her state “never liked her much.”

In another illustration of internal GOP tensions, Cheney and McCarthy have not appeared together at House Republican leadership news conferences for weeks.

Republicans believe Democrats will be vulnerable over President Joe Biden’s crisis on the Southwest border and for not prompting pandemic-shuttered schools and businesses to reopen faster.

In February, conservatives unhappy over Cheney's confrontations with Trump overwhelmingly lost a secret ballot vote of House Republicans aimed at ousting her from her leadership job, 145-61.

But in recent weeks, Cheney's continued willingness to speak out against Trump has prompted fresh criticism of her. She is a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and like him is viewed as part of the GOP establishment, making her a natural target for the party's conservatives.

McCarthy has told reporters that during the House GOP's closed-door February meeting that resulted in Cheney keeping her job, he had defended her.

“People can have differences of opinion. That’s what you can have a discussion about. Liz has a right to vote her conscience,” McCarthy said then.

However, McCarthy struck a completely different tone on Tuesday. He said GOP lawmakers are concerned about the party's messaging, which is part of the No. 3 leader's job.

“What’s our best step forward, that we could all work together instead of attacking one another,” McCarthy said.

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