Cheney holds on to House GOP leadership position amid furor over impeachment vote

Dartunorro Clark, Alex Moe and Sahil Kapur
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) attends a Congressional tribute ceremony to the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick who lies in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, DC, February 3, 2021.
Erin Schaff | Reuters

Liz Cheney, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, held on to her title as House GOP conference chair during a secret ballot held on Wednesday.

Three sources told NBC News the secret ballot among among Republican House members was 145-61.

This comes after Cheney refused to apologize for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump during the closed-door meeting with her GOP conference Wednesday evening, according to a source in the room. Cheney was among the 10 House Republicans who voted in favor of the article of impeachment against Trump for inciting the Jan.6 insurrection at the Capitol, which killed five people.

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Cheney, a frequent critic of Trump and his rhetoric, said at the time, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President."

The lopsided vote to keep Cheney in leadership, despite her vote to impeach Trump, signals a hidden disenchantment with the former president in the House GOP ranks. The impeachment vote was public, meaning lawmakers would be held accountable by their party's voters for their position. But the Cheney vote was a secret ballot, freeing lawmakers to vote their preference without fear of repercussion.

The move created fury and fractures within the party, leading some pro-Trump lawmakers to protest Cheney in her home state of Wyoming, call for her to be stripped of her GOP conference chair title and a potential primary challenge.

Wyoming Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard announced last month he would challenge Cheney, who is up for re-election in 2022. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a staunch Trump ally, also urged supporters of the former president in her home state last week to vote her out.

The rising GOP leader and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is also facing the prospect of censure from the Wyoming GOP party, according to the Associated Press.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after the conference meeting that he stood up for Cheney in the meeting.

"People can have differences of opinion that is what we are having a discussion about. Liz has a right to vote her conscience. At the end of the day, we will be united," he said.

The tension between those who supported impeachment and those still loyal to Trump was also illustrated earlier this week when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released a statement defending Cheney.

"Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them. She is an important leader in our party and in our nation. I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation," McConnell said.