McCarthy, who believes impeachment is bad for the country and will create further division, took a behind-the-scenes approach to the attack on Capitol Hill, speaking privately with GOP members and the president.
Cheney, meanwhile, has seen her political capital increase inside the GOP conference following her direct response to the Capitol Riots, which could be a defining moment in any future presidential or leader race. of the minority.
But Cheney has made it clear that his decision to support impeachment was not political. And in fact, it could hurt her if the GOP doesn’t completely exorcise Trump from his party; the president still maintains fierce support among the conservative base. Still, Cheney privately told her colleagues she wanted to be on the right side of history, sources said, and presented it as a “vote of conscience.”
On the eve of the impeachment vote in the House, Cheney has become the highest ranking Republican to publicly support Trump’s impeachment for inciting a violent mob to attack the Capitol. Three other Republicans, Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko of New York, have also weighed in so far in the impeachment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also told associates he believed Trump had committed unpayable offenses, POLITICO confirmed.
In a three paragraph statement, Cheney did not refrain, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.
Cheney also blamed the attack on the Capitol directly on Trump, saying he had “summoned” the crowd and “kindled the flame of this attack” – and that without him the bloody domestic terrorist attack would not have been. never happened.
“Everything that followed was his doing,” Cheney continued. “The president could have intervened immediately and forcefully to stop the violence. He does not have.”
But while Cheney’s impeachment position might win applause in some corners of the conference, not everyone was satisfied: House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), One of the leaders of the President-elect Joe Biden’s challenge of victory, called on Cheney to step down from his leadership position.
“She shouldn’t be serving this conference,” Biggs told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “That’s it.” The Freedom Caucus once cost McCarthy a chance to become president, and conservative extremists still dominate the House GOP.
Signs of Cheney’s likely impeachment vote had appeared everywhere in the days leading up to his announcement. In the aftermath of the Capitol siege, she put the blame on Trump’s shoulders: “There is no doubt that the president formed the crowd, the president incited the crowd, the president addressed the crowd. He lit the flame, ”she says.
Cheney was also having talks with Democrats as they were curled up in a safe room amid the insurgency, according to several lawmakers. And other sources said she had weighed heavily on the impeachment in recent days.
Then, on a GOP conference call Monday, the first conference-wide meeting since the riots, Cheney did not say how she planned to vote, but urged her colleagues to “vote your conscience.” and she stressed that it was not a political vote.
It’s unclear how many Republicans will follow Cheney’s path, but more are expected to follow, a potential sign of his growing influence in the party. His position also gives suspicious Republicans major political cover.
“Good for her for having honored her oath,” President Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday.
McCarthy, meanwhile, struggled with his response to the attack. Although he remains opposed to impeachment, an aide confirmed to POLITICO that McCarthy was open to the less severe option of censorship. The idea has gained traction in the GOP conference, but Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough to condemn Trump for his role in Wednesday’s deadly events and won’t get a vote.
In another sign that McCarthy is still trying to figure out his next steps, he also asked Republicans if he should ask Trump to step down, according to a GOP member. This detail was first reported by The New York Times.
Notably, sources say McCarthy hasn’t whipped up members on how they’ll vote on impeachment; it would surely backfire as Republicans question how to respond to the crisis.
But the California Republican has become more critical of Trump, especially as rage and frustration swells through the House GOP ranks. McCarthy and his senior deputy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Faced backlash from inside the conference about how they handled the siege and for continuing to s’ oppose the certification of victory for Biden’s constituency even after the deadly riots. Scalise is also opposed to impeachment.
While McCarthy quickly condemned the violence and begged Trump to issue a stronger statement asking the rioters to step down, the GOP leader waited days before blaming Trump privately on a conference call, claiming the president bore some of the responsibility for inciting riots. that put the lives of legislators in danger.
McCarthy also told colleagues on Monday night that he asked Trump to congratulate Biden, the first time he encouraged the outgoing president to extend an olive branch to the new administration.
McCarthy had previously made the calculated call to move all in on Trump, with some Republicans saying he viewed the 2020 House seat gain as a sign that keeping the party attached to Trump was their way of reclaiming the House in 2022.
But as some Republicans have noted, this approach meant that the House GOP was inextricably linked with Trump – even as he plunged the country into chaos.
In addition to McCarthy’s woes, a growing number of corporate donors and business groups are reducing their political donations to members who voted against certification, jeopardizing one of McCarthy’s other strengths – fundraising.
Cheney, meanwhile, has challenged Trump on several occasions. She has split off from other GOP leaders who have often remained silent with their criticisms and at times publicly rejected the president’s behavior.
At one point last year, it seemed that Cheney’s political potential had been burnt after a group of House Freedom Caucus members piled on her in July for her criticism of the president, her support for Dr Anthony Fauci. and his support for a main opponent challenging Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
Some conservatives even discussed recruiting someone to challenge her for the presidency of the conference, but that never materialized; Cheney was unanimously selected for another leadership term.
McCarthy’s position also put him directly at odds with McConnell, his GOP counterpart on Capitol Hill.
McConnell has privately said he is happy Democrats are moving forward with plans to remove the unpredictable president from office because the Senate leader believes it will help clean up Trump’s GOP.
McCarthy and McConnell also treated election objections in entirely different ways. While McConnell actively urged Republicans in the Senate not to challenge the certification of Biden’s 2020 victory, McCarthy remained largely silent before joining the majority of Republicans in the House to oppose the constituency votes. In fact, POLITICO also reported that even before Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy had advised GOP freshmen on electoral challenges to support.
Unlike McConnell, who described his vote to certify as “the most important vote” he has ever cast, McCarthy chose to advance his objection hours after violence unfolded around the Capitol complex, this which angered many of his fellow Republicans.
When Trump’s second impeachment trial begins, the Senate will have an opportunity to prevent Trump from again holding public office. Some Republicans may see an opportunity.
“Mitch McConnell envisioned the party for the long haul. And [he and Cheney] has answered the call, ”said a GOP lawmaker. “And I think a lot of the members are worried that McCarthy and Scalise didn’t.”