GOP divided over expected Cheney ouster

The fractures in the Republican Party were in the spotlight on Sunday, with GOP lawmakers offering contrasting opinions on the expected ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from her leadership role as House Republican Conference chairwoman. 

House Republicans are preparing to replace Cheney this week in part because of her repeated opposition to former President Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and his efforts to push false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is expected take Cheney's role. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the first time publicly threw his support behind Stefanik on Sunday.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, expressed support for Cheney’s ouster, telling host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the Wyoming lawmaker “has failed in her mission as the chief spokeswoman for our party.”

"Republicans are almost completely unified ... to oppose the radical Biden agenda," Banks said.

"We are almost entirely unified on this issue, except for Liz Cheney," he said, adding that "any leader who is not focused on that ... at this point needs to be replaced."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), however, expressed a different outlook on Cheney’s expulsion from GOP leadership. He compared the intraparty conflict surrounding Cheney to the Titanic, telling host John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Republican Party is “in the middle of this slow sink.”

“Right now, it's basically the Titanic. We're ... in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine. And meanwhile ... Donald Trump's running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat,” said Kinzger, who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment for his role in the riot in January.

“And I think there's a few of us that are just saying, ‘Guys, this is not good,’ not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country,” he added.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expressed a similar sentiment, comparing the likely upcoming vote to oust Cheney to a "circular firing squad."

"Well, it's sort of a circular firing squad where we're just attacking members of our own party instead of focusing on solving problems or standing up and having an argument that we can debate the Democrats on some of the things that the Biden administration is pushing through," Hogan said.

He tied the intraparty fight back to Trump, denouncing the GOP’s apparent requirement of “fealty” to the former president for leadership positions in Congress.

"I think they're concerned about retaliation from the [former] president," Hogan said.

"They're concerned about, you know, being attacked within the party. And, you know, it just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader or you get kicked out of the party. It just doesn't make any sense," he added.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) urged his party to allow for differences while recognizing that the GOP is “very divided.”

“It shows that we're very divided as a party, and that's no secret. I'm not the first person to say that, but as we talk about broadening the tent and bringing in a new generation of Republicans, we really have to allow for those types of differences,” Cox told host Jake Tapper.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) offered perspective from across the aisle, criticizing the Republican Party for “losing its way on all fronts” and labeling the crusade against Cheney as “classic cancel culture.”

“This Republican Party is losing its way on all fronts, and [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] is contributing to that in a big way,” Clyburn told Tapper.

“This party, Republican Party, today is showing so much dishonor to the people who made it possible, the people who, down from Abraham Lincoln, kept this party alive on the basis of anti-slavery, which itself was a big lie, and now they're perpetuating it. Now, they talk a lot about cancel culture. This is the classic cancel culture. They are perpetrating that which they argue that they are against,” he added.