House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave his strongest signal yet on Tuesday that he would support a new attempt to oust GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney from her leadership post.
The California Republican said that his members have voiced concerns about Cheney’s “ability to carry out” her leadership duties — a stark shift from McCarthy’s public silence earlier this year when House conservatives mounted a failed bid to dislodge her from her role after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. This time, McCarthy denied that intra-party frustrations with Cheney were rooted in the Wyoming Republican’s impeachment vote.
“There’s no concern about how she voted on impeachment. That decision has been made,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) told “Fox & Friends” in an interview.
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” he said. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority. Remember, majorities are not given, they are earned. And that’s about the message about going forward.”
McCarthy defended Cheney privately during February’s vote over whether to keep her in leadership. But their relationship has since soured as McCarthy has sought to walk back his criticism of Trump and tether himself more closely to the former president — all while Cheney has continued to insist Trump should play no role in the future of the Republican Party.
Tensions between the two House Republican leaders resurfaced at a retreat for GOP lawmakers in Florida last month, where McCarthy and Cheney publicly broke with one another in a series of remarks to reporters over Cheney’s messaging, Trump’s 2020 election falsehoods and a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection.
Conservatives including Donald Trump Jr. attacked Cheney last week for fist-bumping President Joe Biden ahead of his first address to a joint session of Congress, and the Republican infighting ramped up further Monday after former President Trump released a statement attempting to rebrand the 2020 election as the real “BIG LIE.”
Cheney responded on Twitter roughly an hour later, writing: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
The back-and-forth between the former president and the House Republican conference chair provoked another round of backlash from conservatives Monday and fueled already rampant speculation that Cheney could soon be booted from House leadership.
House Democrats quickly mocked the GOP for its apparent uneasiness with Cheney’s anti-Trump apostasy. Responding to Republicans’ interest in replacing Cheney with a female conference chair, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office released a statement headlined: “GOP Leadership: Help Wanted — Non-Threatening Female.”
Later Monday afternoon, Trump released a statement touting “heartwarming” public polling in Cheney’s home state purportedly showing her with low approval numbers and predicted that “she’ll never run in a Wyoming election again!”
Cheney, for her part, rebuked Trump again Monday night at a closed-door conference in Georgia, where CNN reported she called Trump’s false election fraud claims “a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy” and said that “we can’t whitewash what happened” on Jan. 6.
Meanwhile, McCarthy has also come under fire from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who aired a segment Monday night highlighting that the House Republican leader rented space in a Washington, D.C., penthouse belonging to Frank Luntz — the veteran Republican pollster and strategist who has been critical of Trump’s election rhetoric and actions on Jan. 6.
“I didn’t know how this was controversial,” McCarthy said Tuesday, addressing the report. “Frank has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years.”
McCarthy said that after Democrats retook control of the House in January 2019, “they started changing the House around, and so, yeah, I rented a room [from] Frank for a couple months. But don’t worry, I’m back to going back to where I normally [am], on my couch in my office. But yeah, we paid fair market rate.”
“He seems upset,” McCarthy added of Carlson. “I think [Frank] and Tucker must dislike each other, and I don’t think that’s right. They need to get together and solve whatever difficulties, because we’ve got to make sure that we put this country back on the right track.”