A group of House conservatives is pushing to challenge Liz Cheney‘s role as conference chairwoman, trying to force a special meeting to discuss her future as the No. 3 House Republican.
In a draft of the petition, which was obtained by CNN, conservatives are calling on Cheney for a special meeting “to discuss a resolution on your leadership.” The petition is still in draft form and is being circulated by members of the House Freedom Caucus.
While the petition is garnering support, signing onto the petition means members back holding the special meeting. Under House Republican conference rules, you need 20% of the conference or 43 members to sign onto a petition like this in order to hold a special meeting. Signing onto the petition to hold the meeting is not the same as saying members are willing to vote to oust Cheney right now. In any meeting, the members would have to vote separately on the resolution asking her to step down.
The effort to actually oust Cheney continues to be viewed as a long shot by GOP aides watching the process. While it is expected the conference may have to hold a special meeting on the topic, actually ousting Cheney is much harder. The conference would have to vote on a resolution asking her to step down and a majority would have to back it, something that aides don’t expect is possible right now.
“There is angst, but I don’t think they get there,” one Republican aide told CNN on the condition of background to freely discuss the issue.
Part of the obstacle for conservatives is that that leadership is not currently backing the effort. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNN that the California Republican did not back efforts to oust Cheney.
A spokesperson for Cheney responded to the effort in a statement Tuesday.
“We always welcome the opportunity to have discussions within the conference, and look forward to this one,” Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler said. “As President-Elect Biden takes office and begins to implement an agenda that threatens our economic recovery and reverses course on important national security issues, our conference will be united in standing for conservative solutions to bring the nation together and retake the majority in 2022.”
Behind the scenes, frustration with Cheney has grown not simply over the fact that she voted to impeach President Donald Trump, but in how she went about it. The scathing statement against Trump was delivered the day before the vote giving Democrats a chance to use it over and over again in their calls to impeach Trump on the floor. Still, aides argue McCarthy is focused on keeping intra-party fights at bay as House Republicans recalibrate and set their sights on winning back the House in 2022. One former senior GOP official told CNN that ousting Cheney would be a massive step backward for the party.
Cheney’s calls for impeachment were far from the only ones in Congress from Republicans. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump and multiple GOP senators have said they are open to looking at impeachment against the President. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the mob that attacked the US Capitol had been “provoked” by Trump.
“If it is true they are trying to do this, the party is committing suicide,” the official said. “Taking out the most senior woman in leadership when your party is bleeding out suburban women is the definition of self-harm.”
“At some point there is going to have to be a conversation about whether we are going to have this civil war or not in the Republican Party,” the GOP aide said. “The cumulative effect of all of this is not helpful. I think at some point you get to a mutually assured destruction posture and people just stand down.”
This post has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.