Matt Gaetz may be auditioning for many roles in the Republican Party, but evidently House Republican whip isn’t one of them.
Gaetz confidently predicted that a majority of House Republicans would vote to oust Liz Cheney from her leadership role when, instead, Cheney prevailed last night by a resounding 145–61 vote.
For the sin of frankly stating Trump’s transgressions on January 6 and accordingly voting to impeach him, Cheney faced an immediate backlash. The most hard-core Trumpists in the House, led by Gaetz and Jim Jordan, sought to oust her from her position as chairwoman of the House Republican conference, an effort that came to a head last night in a long and intense internal meeting.
Cheney didn’t give an inch. She didn’t apologize for her vote, and, counter to the criticism that she relied on parliamentary tactics to defend her job, she sought the verdict of the conference last night. In the end, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy strongly backed her. And the vote, despite the chest-thumping of Gaetz and wishful reporting in the Trumpist press, wasn’t even close.
The vote is heartening, in that it shows that most Republicans realize it’s a mistake to let loyalty to one man in Mar-a-Lago dictate how they conduct their affairs. It’s depressing, in that it shows many Republicans are still much more willing to air this sentiment in private — it was a secret vote — than in public.
In repulsing the leadership challenge, Cheney has passed her first political test, but she still has much repair work to do in Wyoming, where voters overwhelmingly disagree with her impeachment vote and she already has primary challengers.
She will continue to be pursued by her critics until 2022. It will be better for the party if the ultimate outcome is the same as last night.