WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as the chamber’s No. 3 GOP leader on Wednesday after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump for his unfounded claims of election fraud.
Meeting behind closed doors for less than 20 minutes, GOP lawmakers used a voice vote to remove Cheney, R-Wyo., from the party’s No. 3 House position, a turnabout to what’s been her fast-rising career within the party.
“I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney said following the vote. “We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language.”
She has been Congress’ highest-ranking Republican woman and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her demotion was the latest evidence that challenging Trump can be career-threatening.
The vote was the culmination of months of tension within the party.
“It’s clear that we need to make a change,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told his fellow Republicans in a letter announcing Wednesday’s vote. “These internal conflicts need to be resolved, so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team.”
Cheney has come under fire from her own party over comments contradicting Trump’s false claims the 2020 election was stolen. Cheney was among 10 Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump over the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. She has called her impeachment vote an act of conscience in defense of democracy and the Constitution.
Cheney spoke on the House floor a day before the vote, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that.”
“I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” she said.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, one of the few House Republicans publicly defending Cheney said in a tweet, “I believe our open lies are an absolute abdication of our duty, and it is shameful.”
Cheney arrived in Congress in 2017, and by November 2018 was elected to her leadership job unopposed. Her career path seemed to potentially include runs at becoming speaker, senator or even president.
She occasionally clashed with Trump during his presidency over issues like the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. But virtually open warfare between the two commenced in January once she became one of 10 House Republicans to back his second impeachment for inciting his supporters’ deadly Capitol assault. The Senate acquitted him.
Cheney withstood a February effort to boot her from leadership in a 145-61 secret ballot, with a McCarthy speech on her behalf credited with saving her. That didn’t happen this time.
Cheney’s replacement was widely expected to be Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y, who has received the backing of McCarthy and second-ranking House Republican leader, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. However, McCarthy might delay that vote.
Stefanik, now 36, was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she first won her district, which had voted twice for Democratic President Barack Obama and had been represented by Democrats in Congress since 1993.
Cheney has told Republicans she’s not quitting Congress and will run for reelection next year, but she will have to survive a near-certain GOP primary challenge from a Trump-recruited opponent. Even if she returns to the House, it is unclear how loud her voice will be inside a party that has all but disowned her.
Outside the GOP meeting, she told reporters that the country needs a Republican Party “that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.