Divided Republican Party faces post-Trump reckoning in US

Amid backlash from pro-Trump voters and calls to rebuke two legislators, Republican Party faces choice over its future.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney faces a backlash from within her party for voting to impeach Trump [Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters]
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney faces a backlash from within her party for voting to impeach Trump [Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters]

Republican legislators in the United States House of Representatives are gearing up to decide the fate of two members of the party who have drawn criticism for different reasons over the past few weeks.

On Wednesday, Republicans will decide whether to strip Representative Liz Cheney of her leadership position after she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting mob violence at the US Capitol last month.

At the same time, they will weigh whether to punish freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for her support of QAnon conspiracy theories and threats made against Democratic legislators.

The upcoming decisions reflect an emerging split in the Republican Party and will also speak volumes about whether the GOP – as the party is commonly known – remains loyal to Trump or returns to a more traditional, establishment Republicanism of smaller government and lower taxes.

“There is a divide between Republican elites and the voters,” J Miles Coleman, an analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Al Jazeera. “You still have this faction in the House, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are still on the Trump train.”

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has drawn widespread criticism for her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is at risk of losing her position as chair of the Republican Conference, the third-highest position for House Republicans, while Greene faces an effort to strip her of her committee assignments.

Even before the Capitol riot, Trump had called for getting rid of “weak congresspeople” including Cheney, who had urged Republicans to reject the former president’s effort to overturn November’s presidential election results, according to a report in The Washington Post newspaper.

In a speech to a crowd of Trump supporters at the Wyoming state capitol on January 29, Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally from Florida, accused Cheney of being a “beltway bureaucrat-turned-fake cowgirl that supported an impeachment that is deeply unpopular in the state of Wyoming”.

Republicans in 10 Wyoming counties have voted to condemn Cheney for the vote for impeachment of Trump, according to local media reports, and she also has now drawn a Republican challenger for 2022. Calling her “out of touch”, Anthony Bouchard, a Wyoming state senator, announced he intends to run against her.

On the other side of the US Capitol where Republican senators are gearing up to defend Trump in an impeachment trial set to begin hearing evidence next week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Cheney “a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them”.

‘Cancer’ for GOP

Meanwhile, McConnell slammed Greene in a statement, saying her embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories” was a “cancer for the Republican Party“.

“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were prestaged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said.

“This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”

Green, who has tied herself to Trump’s policies and rhetoric, has expressed support for false QAnon conspiracy theories that top Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking, Satan worship and cannibalism.

Establishment Republicans had tried and failed to break with Greene last year after Facebook videos surfaced showing her expressing racist, anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments.

“These establishment Republicans like Cheney and McConnell, that’s not where Republican voters are,” Coleman said.

If Republicans do not act on Greene, House Democrats are prepared to strip her of her committee assignments on the House education and budget committees. The House Rules Committee is poised to approve a rare resolution on Wednesday that, if approved by the full chamber, would remove her from the two committees.

Greene responded on Monday that Democrats would regret the precedent they are setting.

“If Democrats remove me from my committees, I can assure them that the precedent they are setting will be used extensively against members on their side once we regain the majority after the 2022 elections,” Greene said.

Last week Greene claimed Democratic attacks on her had helped her raise more $1.6m in political donations.

“It is Trump’s party now,” Coleman said.

Source: Al Jazeera

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