WASHINGTON – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stepped up pressure on No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney on Tuesday, claiming rank-and-file concerns about “her ability to carry out her job” as she trades insults with former President Donald Trump.
McCarthy’s comments on the Fox News Channel underscored the continued, if not growing, grip that the former president has on the House GOP. They also spotlighted an increasingly open split between McCarthy and Cheney.
Rather than standing by Cheney — as he did during a failed effort to oust her in February — McCarthy essentially planted himself in the camp of her pro-Trump critics. His positioning with her detractors and their increasingly outspoken attacks suggest her hold on her leadership job is in renewed peril.
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out her job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” said McCarthy, R-Calif. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority. Remember, majorities are not given. They are earned.”
McCarthy’s remarks come with Republicans optimistic about their chances of winning back control of the House in the 2022 elections. The GOP believes it has a trove of issues to use against Democrats and wants the focus there, not on internal party rifts.
But between now and next year’s elections, the GOP must resolve the power struggle between the party’s pro-Trump loyalists and those who believe he has damaged the party and country by repeatedly — and falsely — claiming that last November’s presidential election was stolen from him.
The fight between Cheney and her critics stands as a microcosm of that battle. It also puts the GOP in the awkward position of seeking to oust its highest-ranking woman from her post at a time when the party is trying to erode Democrats’ decisive advantage among female voters.
Asked about McCarthy’s comments, Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said in a written statement, “This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”
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