House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that his GOP caucus had voiced concerns about House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney’s “ability to carry out” her leadership role — denying that intra-party frustrations with the No. 3 House Republican were rooted in her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
“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.”
The remarks from McCarthy represent the latest escalation in his feud with Cheney (R-Wis.), who in February fended off an effort by conservative GOP lawmakers to oust her from her leadership post after she voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
McCarthy defended Cheney at the time, 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 conservative GOP lawmakers Monday and fueled already rampant speculation that Cheney could soon be booted from House leadership.
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.