According to this Politico story from a few days ago, that should be enough to oust her from her leadership position. Twenty percent of the caucus, or 42 members, is needed to force a meeting on whether to strip her of her title as chair of the House Republican Conference. Then a simple majority is needed to actually do the deed. That would require 106 members, less than the number that’s already signed a petition supporting her removal.
The one wrinkle is that the vote will be held by secret ballot, so in theory someone who signed the petition could secretly switch to no on their actual ballot and Cheney could hang on that way. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
If you wanted a set piece showing how weak Congress has become relative to the president *and* how cultish the GOP has become towards Trump, you can’t do better than Cheney losing a leadership position because she objected to inciting a mob that attacked the Capitol.
House conservatives have more than 115 signatures on their petition aimed at removing House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership position, a senior GOP aide tells me.
— Juliegrace Brufke (@juliegraceb) January 19, 2021
A senior GOP staffer who works for an office involved in garnering signatures for the Cheney Petition tells me they’re now “north of 120” on the signatures.
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) January 19, 2021
The Onion should do a follow-up to this old story in which Cheney ends up being demoted by her colleagues for condemning the serial strangulation of their families.
Suspense is growing, though: Do the anti-Cheneys really have 115+ votes or is that hype?
A senior GOP staffer who works for an office that is actively whipping signatures on the Cheney petition projected a lot of confidence to your Huddle host about the number of signatures they’re getting, but declined to provide exact numbers. Other GOP sources, however, are skeptical that a majority of the House GOP conference would sign on, chalking such talk as possible saber rattling.
It’s not just Cheney who has something at stake in this vote. Remember that Kevin McCarthy has signaled that he doesn’t want Cheney replaced as conference chair. If it ends up happening anyway, it would mean that he’s lost control of his caucus. And if so, it’s not hard to grasp why: Trump has let it be known that McCarthy is now numero uno on his sh*t list for the speech McCarthy gave during the floor debate before the impeachment vote last week. McCarthy voted no but ran through a number of anti-Trump talking points before doing so, claiming that Biden is the legitimate president, that it wasn’t Antifa who smashed up the Capitol, and that Trump bears some responsibility for what happened.
House Republicans must have gotten wind of the president’s reaction and concluded that, if they’re now being forced to choose between their caucus leader and Trump, they should side with the person whose support will ensure that they avoid primaries in 2022. Especially with members of the Trump family essentially whipping votes against Cheney on Twitter:
"The censure resolution passed in a unanimous vote by the 45-member central committee."
Washington Times: Liz Cheney censured in Wyoming for vote to impeach Trump: 'Did not represent our voice' https://t.co/qJHJek8zGm
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 19, 2021
It’s true, she was censured by a Republican organization at the county level in Wyoming over the weekend because she wasn’t sufficiently supportive of the president’s coup attempt. The resolution accused Cheney of having cast her vote “without any quantifiable evidence of High Crimes or Misdemeanors,” as if we didn’t just spend two months watching Trump daily push incoherent propaganda about vote-rigging, lean on state election officials to “find” votes for him, and lobby state legislators to overturn their election results and award him their electors. He topped it off by telling a crowd of QAnon cranks and militia guys on the day of Biden’s certification to go to the Capitol, which they understandably treated as orders to disrupt the process. His own former right-hand man, Bill Barr, admits that the “stop the steal” garbage “precipitated” the attack that led to a cop being murdered and could well have led to members of Congress and the vice president being lynched.
The entire episode is the purest possible demonstration of feral partisanship. If a Democrat had done what Trump did, or any part of it, really, the case for impeachment immediately after the attack would have been apparent to every Republican in Congress and 95+ percent of Republican voters across the country. Because it was Trump, they want him to have carte blanche for the coup attempt, the mob incitement, presumably even for his grotesque inaction in the Oval Office after the fact while members of Congress were still under threat from his fans. All of it.
And not only do they want him to have carte blanche, they want to punish the handful of House Republicans who cast a meaningless vote to condemn it. That’s *real* cultism. Telling Trump he won’t be penalized for anything he does is bad enough. Telling everyone else that they will be penalized for criticizing him is full Jonestown.
Given the potential consequences for the party by quadrupling down on Trump, notes Philip Klein, that analogy may be more apt than it initially appears:
Nobody, in 1974, wanted to run as a Nixon Republican. In 1981, nobody wanted to run for office as a Carter Democrat. In the 2008 election, Republicans started running away from Bush before he even left the White House. He did not even attend that year’s RNC and has never spoken at one in-person since leaving office.
Yet Republicans, who managed to win the presidency, Senate, and House, before Trump had even entered politics, are acting like the only path for them to regain power is to attach themselves to Trump like barnacles.
The challenge Republicans face, of course, is that there is a deep disconnect between Republican voters and the general electorate. Though down from the upper 80s, Trump still leaves the presidency with 82% of Republicans approving of his performance. In deep-red districts, this means those who get in Trump’s crosshairs risk a primary challenge. The problem is, just 30% of independents approve of Trump, meaning that as long as the party is tied to him, they will have difficulty winning outside of already deeply Republican areas, which they would expect to win no matter what.
His final Gallup job approval rating is 34 percent, tied with Carter and Bush 43 for the second-lowest by any modern president before leaving office. His average job approval over his four years was 41.1, easily the lowest of any president since Gallup started polling during the Truman era. That’s not to say that House Republicans can simply turn their backs on him given his popularity with GOP voters, but it is to say that leaving Cheney in a position of authority would be shrewd branding by showing independents that there’s a place for Trump skeptics in the party. Instead they’re going to purge her. Republican Jonestown.
We’ll see what McCarthy does about all of this. Now that he’s said publicly that he doesn’t want to see her ousted, his authority’s on the line almost as much as hers is. Maybe he’ll twist some arms behind the scenes and convert the petition to oust her as conference chair into some sort of soft censure resolution in which members of the conference formally repudiate her impeachment vote but leave her in charge.