WASHINGTON – House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy wants his party to stand firmly with Donald Trump, despite his false claims about the election being stolen from him.
No. 3 GOP leader Liz Cheney is trying to steer the party far from the former president’s claims about his defeat, charting a future without him.
The party, it became more apparent Tuesday, does not have room for both.
Cheney’s political future was increasingly in peril as McCarthy signaled he would no longer protect his lieutenant from those seeking her ouster from House GOP leadership, opening the possibility of a vote to remove her from the job as soon as next week. One Republican granted anonymity to discuss the situation said simply, “She’s toast.”
What could be seen as a skirmish between minority party leaders trying to find a way back to the majority has become a more politically profound moment for Republicans and the country. The party of Abraham Lincoln is deciding whether to let Trump’s false claims about the election of Democrat Joe Biden go unchecked — or to hold him accountable, as Cheney does, by arguing the country cannot “whitewash” the former president’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“This is a much bigger issue than the future of the Republican Party,” said Timothy Naftali, an associate professor at New York University and founding director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “This is about the future of our democracy.”
The standoff has been intensifying ever since Cheney led a group of 10 House Republicans voting with Democrats to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the Jan. 6 siege, the worst domestic mob attack on the Capitol in the nation’s history.
Not only was her effort an affront to Trump, still president at the time, but it was out of step with most House Republicans, including the 138 who voted against certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden’s victory. However, others, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who voted to impeach Trump, see Cheney as the “truth-telling” GOP leader the nation needs.