The vote by House Republicans to ditch Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as House GOP Conference chair is about three things: the present, the future and the long-term future.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is focused on the present and the future. The present as in “right now.” The future as in “Nov. 8, 2022” and “Jan. 3, 2023.”
The “long-term future” is in the great beyond.
McCarthy knew he had the votes in the bag to expel Cheney as the third-highest ranking Republican in the House and most-senior GOP woman in American government. The House Republican Conference affirmed Cheney’s status in February, 145-61. But support for Cheney quickly evaporated. It’s unclear what the vote would have been like had McCarthy ordered a “recorded” voted behind closed doors. But he didn’t need to. The “present” meant that McCarthy wielded the upper hand and Cheney did not. So McCarthy called the vote and Cheney was toast.
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When we talk about the “future,” McCarthy knows Republicans stand a good chance to re-take the House on Nov. 8, 2022 – Election Day. Republicans only need to flip a handful of seats that day to find themselves back in the majority. And, if the electorate smiles on Republicans, McCarthy could very well find himself elected speaker of the House on Jan. 3, 2023. That’s the constitutionally mandated day to begin the 118th Congress.
McCarthy sees a path to win the majority that goes through former President Donald Trump. McCarthy also understands that many rank-and-file Republicans wanted to remove Cheney – and prefer to saddle up to the former president – lest he excoriate them and invite a primary challenge. In many respects, McCarthy was just responding to where most of his conference is now. If political leaders stray too far afield from their base on any issue, they may wind up like Cheney.
Perhaps Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) said it best, moments after House Republicans dismissed Cheney.
“If you had a member of the Democratic leadership and they didn’t believe in climate change anymore, do you think they would still remain in the Democrat leadership?” asked Donalds. “I don’t think so.”
He’s not wrong.
It took Cheney only one term in Congress before she climbed into the House GOP leadership hierarchy in the fall of 2018. And, only 15 minutes for House Republicans to expel Cheney from her leadership slot in a secret, non-recorded vote last Wednesday.
“We ended up going by voice vote,” said one of Cheney’s defenders, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
A “voice vote” is where no one actually documents how each member votes. They cast their ballot “verbally.” The “louder” side wins.
Kinzinger wasn’t don
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