Meh. They’re all talk.
The most immediate threat to Cheney — a push by Trump loyalists to oust her as conference chair — has gained momentum inside the House GOP, although the process is complicated and could still sputter out. But at least 107 Republicans, or just over a majority, have communicated to the leaders of that effort that they would support removing Cheney from leadership on a secret ballot, according to multiple GOP sources involved in the effort. Others are threatening to boycott future conference meetings if she remains in power…
Members are not only angry with her impeachment vote, but also furious that Cheney announced her position a day ahead — giving Democrats ample time to use her statement in all of their talking points, while also providing cover to the nine other Republicans who backed impeachment.
Savor this irony. Cheney voted yes on impeachment knowing that it would bring down the wrath of the MAGA-in-chief and all of his flying monkeys in the House on her. Now they’re eager to punish her — but some want to do it via secret ballot, for fear that voting against her will bring down her wrath on them: “Rosendale said multiple members fear they will be retaliated against if they publicly call to remove Cheney, which is why they’re more willing to vote on a secret ballot than sign a petition.”
Politico says there are 107 Republicans in favor of removing her, The Hill says it’s more like 115, which is in line with reports earlier this week. That’s way more than they need to force a conference meeting to discuss Cheney’s impeachment vote. But in order to force an actual vote, they need two-thirds of the caucus — something like 140 members. If they can’t get to 140 then an internal House Republican panel, which is likely to be stocked with allies of Cheney and leadership, will consider the issue instead. Only if that panel recommends action would a secret-ballot vote of the full conference be held. Which is to say, Cheney’s probably going to be able to kill this effort off even though a majority of the caucus may support ousting her.
In fact, it’s unclear right now whether the conference can remove her from her position even if the vote is held and she loses. Some reports I’ve seen claim that the thing they’d be voting on is merely a resolution calling on her to voluntarily step down — a vote of “no confidence,” essentially. But Cheney has already said that she’s not going anywhere and it’s unclear if the conference would have any recourse if she refuses to comply with their demands.
Still, she’s reportedly worried enough about the effort to have started calling around to colleagues to gauge their support. Rumors are circulating that either Elise Stefanik or Lee Zeldin is being proposed as a replacement, although Politico isn’t certain how serious that is. If you want to take Cheney out, it’ll probably need to be done the old-fashioned way. Trump is reportedly looking forward to it:
“The stance taken by Liz was very contentious here in Wyoming,” said Republican Bryan Miller, a retired Air Force officer expected to run against Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who vocally supported Trump’s impeachment. “This isn’t going to be a passing thing that just goes away. It’s growing and growing and growing every day across the state. People are unhappy.”…
People close to Trump say he is particularly fixated on the Republicans who backed impeachment and is determined to take them out. The former president has raised more than $200 million since the election, much of which has been directed into a new committee than could be used to back primary opponents. Trump aides have also been at work creating a political apparatus that can be deployed in the 2022 elections.
One immediate logistical problem for MAGA fans is making sure they settle on a single primary challenger in each race. Cheney has already attracted two would-be opponents, Miller and state legislator Anthony Bouchard. The more anti-Cheneys there are running against her, the more the anti-Cheney vote splinters and the easier it gets for her to win in a crowded field. Assuming she squeaks through and earns another term in Congress, it should be easy-ish next time to deny her a leadership role in the caucus again. But that comes with wrinkles too, namely that some corporate donors have vowed not to contribute to any House Republicans who objected to the certification of Biden’s victory on January 6. That includes most of the caucus — but not Cheney. One of the key jobs for someone in leadership is to raise money. How complicated might that become for the caucus if Stefanik, who *did* object to Biden’s win, ends up in her position?
I think Cheney’s safe for now:
“2020 was the year of the Republican woman. And how are Republican leaders repaying those women? By letting the Freedom Caucus kick the one female member of leadership to the curb for doing what she thought was right,” a senior female Republican aide said.
“If McCarthy lets this happen, it just shows he’s just been completely neutered by the Freedom Caucus. And it’s the fastest way to ensure he absolutely won’t get the gavel Jan. 3, 2023,” she said, referring to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
One X factor in the Cheney saga is that there’s another group of Republicans that still has to vote on whether Trump committed a high crime or not. That’s the Senate GOP, of course. CNN has a headline tonight: “Prospects of convicting Trump erode as GOP grows vocal against Senate impeachment proceedings.” Two different Republican senators say the odds of convicting Trump are “nil” and two others said they don’t expect more than a handful of Republicans to join Democrats in voting to convict. That’s Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Toomey, and maybe Sasse. McConnell remains a wild card but it’s hard to imagine him voting yes if no one else is willing to jump with him. The question is: Will Cheney get any cover from the five or so Senate defectors? That is, will MAGA suddenly turn their wrath on Sasse and Romney and forget about Cheney (for awhile)? Or does the very fact that so few Senate Republicans will vote to convict mean that Cheney’s heresy will seem even more glaring in hindsight?
Exit quotation from Politico: “[Cheney] was unapologetic about her impeachment stance, framing it as a vote of conscience and privately telling colleagues she wanted to be on the right side of history, political consequences be damned.” To borrow an old James Carville line about Hillary and Obama, if Cheney gave McCarthy one of her balls each of them would have two.