By BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans voted on Wednesday to keep Rep. Liz Cheney in GOP leadership despite her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump last month, with a strong majority of the conference rejecting the challenge from Trump allies to punish the Wyoming Republican.
The conference voted 145-61 in a secret ballot, after members spent hours venting frustrations about Cheney’s vote, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s past support for conspiracy theories and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s leadership of the conference following Trump’s defeat.
“We really did have a terrific vote tonight and terrific time this evening laying out what we’re going to do going forward, as well as making clear that we’re not going to be divided and that we’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership,” Cheney told reporters after the meeting. “It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and that we need to go forward in a way that helps us be back.”
In remarks to her colleagues, the House Republican Conference chair did not apologize for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and welcomed the referendum on her position, following a weekslong campaign from Trump’s most fervent supporters to drive her out of the conference and recruit a primary challenge to defeat her next year.
McCarthy, who has been criticized by colleagues for shifting statements about Trump’s responsibility for the storming of the Capitol, endorsed Cheney and encouraged Republicans to keep her on the leadership team.
Cheney was also supported by other Republicans in the conference, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of nine other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, according to a source familiar with the conference meeting.
She was criticized by others in the conference, including Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., who likened Cheney’s support for impeachment to seeing a girlfriend cheer for the other team at a football game, a remark that wasn’t well received by women in the conference, according to a source familiar with the comments.
Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., a conservative who surprised Republicans by voting to impeach Trump, questioned McCarthy’s decision to travel to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the former president last week.
GOP leaders emerged from the meeting depicting a united front, even as fault lines remain over how to position the party with Trump out of office, but potentially eying a 2024 White House run.
“The No. 1 thing that happened this conference was unity. People were able to air their differences, people were able to focus,” McCarthy told reporters.
Greene, who has faced intense criticism for past comments promoting conspiracy theories about school shootings and QAnon, apologized to members for the remarks and expressed contrition for some of the past comments, a move that was appreciated by some members in the room.
The embattled congresswoman received a standing ovation from approximately half of the conference, according to a source in the room.
McCarthy rejected Democrats’ calls for Greene to be stripped from the House Education and Budget committees over the controversy, but faulted Democrats for rejecting his proposal to instead place her on the Small Business Committee. The House will move forward with a resolution from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to remove Greene from those committees.
Following the meeting, the California Republican leader repeatedly denounced the conspiracy theories Greene allegedly promoted. The Georgia Republican has yet to repudiate her past remarks in public, and instead doubled down on Twitter, accusing Democrats of targeting her over her race and religious beliefs. She also boasted of raising over $100,000 on Wednesday amid the backlash.
“I want to see her do it on Twitter and in public, though. I think that would be a good idea,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, of Greene’s apology.
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