Republicans are plotting to unseat Representative Liz Cheney, their No. 3, for repudiating Donald J. Trump and his false election claims and for refusing to paper over the Jan. 6 riot.,
Tensions among House G.O.P. leaders rise as a possible Cheney ouster looms.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming at the Capitol last week.Credit…Pool photo by Melina Mara
The first time defenders of Donald J. Trump came for Representative Liz Cheney, for the offense of having voted to impeach him, fellow Republicans closed ranks to save her leadership post, with Representative Kevin McCarthy boasting that their “big tent” party had enough room for both the former president and a stalwart critic.
Evidently, not anymore.
Just three months after she beat back a no-confidence vote by lopsided margins, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, is facing a far more potent challenge that appears increasingly likely to end in her ouster from leadership, with Mr. McCarthy himself encouraging the effort to replace her.
Her transgression, colleagues say: Ms. Cheney’s continued public criticism of Mr. Trump, her denunciation of his lies about a stolen election and her demands that the G.O.P. tell the truth about how his supporters assaulted democracy during the Jan. 6 riot.
The turnabout reflects anew the passion with which Republicans have embraced Mr. Trump and the voters who revere him, and how willing many in the party are to perpetuate — or at least tolerate — falsehoods about the 2020 election that he has continued to spread.
The latest test for Ms. Cheney could come as soon as next week, when a growing group of Republicans is planning a fresh bid to dethrone her, boosted by Mr. McCarthy. Many of her colleagues are now so confident that it will succeed that they are openly discussing who will replace Ms. Cheney.
The tensions escalated on Tuesday, when Mr. McCarthy went on Mr. Trump’s favorite news program, “Fox and Friends,” to question whether Ms. Cheney could effectively carry out her role as the party’s top messenger. (Beforehand, he told a Fox reporter, “I’ve had it with her,” and “I’ve lost confidence,” according to a report in Axios that cited a leaked recording of the exchange.)
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” Mr. McCarthy said during the portion of the interview that aired. “We all need to be working as one, if we’re able to win the majority.”
With one-time allies closing in, Ms. Cheney, known for her steely temperament, has only dug in harder. Minutes after Mr. McCarthy’s TV hit, she sent back her own barbed reply through a spokesman, effectively suggesting that the minority leader and Republicans moving against her were complicit in Mr. Trump’s dissembling.
“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6,” Jeremy Adler, the spokesman, said. “Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”
Bracing for a confrontation, Republicans have begun floating names of women who could replace Ms. Cheney in her post. Several of them are bullish about Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, an outspoken rising star within the party who has toiled to recruit more Republican women. She has been privately reaching out to colleagues to gauge support, according to two people familiar with the effort.
Also cited as a possibility was Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who as the top Republican on the Ethics Committee earlier this year successfully balanced the job of condemning Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s past conspiratorial statements while arguing she should not be kicked off her committees.