Liz Cheney retains leadership position after bitter Republican debate

Ideological rift within the GOP highlighted during debate over Cheney's leadership role in the House

Liz Cheney (R-WY) departs after a House Republican Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 3, 2021.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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US congresswoman Liz Cheney retained her House leadership role on Wednesday, rebuffing an attempt to remove her three weeks after she voted with Democrats to impeach former president Donald Trump.

The internal GOP vote was 145-61, with one member voting present (effectively an abstention), coming at the end of an emotional four-hour meeting, according to people who were in the room. Those who stood up to defend Ms Cheney’s job as GOP conference chair and those who wanted to remove her spoke passionately about their positions, the people said.

Speaking in her own defence, Ms Cheney, 54, did not apologise for her January 13 vote to impeach Mr Trump, saying it was an act of conscience and one that she stands by. She did argue, however, that she is a team player and should continue in her leadership role.

“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together,” Ms Cheney said after the vote, in reference to Wednesday’s private Republican meeting.

Yet the fact that nearly a third of the conference voted against her underscores the deep division in the Republican Party between those fiercely loyal to Mr Trump and those who want to move past the former president and his false claims about the November election.

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Louis Gohmert of Texas were among those who argued against Ms Cheney, insisting that an elected leader of the party should not have voted to impeach a Republican president.

Several legislators said one of the moments that stood out was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's defence of Ms Cheney, calling for unity in the party.

The House impeached Mr Trump on a single charge of inciting an insurrection after his supporters had stormed the Capitol in a deadly attack as Congress was about to certify the Electoral College victory of Joe Biden.

Ms Cheney at the time fiercely defended her decision to vote against Mr Trump. Mr Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”, Ms Cheney, a daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, said on January 12. “Everything that followed was his doing.”

Ms Cheney had opposed Mr Trump’s first impeachment in late 2019.

The conflict was one of two festering disputes for House Republicans that came to a head on Wednesday.

They are grappling with how to respond to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose past comments on QAnon and various other conspiracy theories were denounced by other Republicans. Mr McCarthy earlier said he condemned her previous stances and social media posts but indicated he would take no action to punish the Georgia Republican.

House Democrats on Wednesday moved to oust Ms Greene from two committees and set up a vote of the full House Thursday to determine her fate.