GOP takes sides on Cheney's ouster, with one congressman calling party 'basically the Titanic'

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WASHINGTON – Republicans firmed up their positions in the debate over whether to replace Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Sunday, with the head of the largest Republican caucus calling for the GOP conference chair's ouster. Meanwhile, one of her vocal supporters said the effort threatened the party's future, likening it to the Titanic.

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"Any leader who is not focused on pushing back against the radical and dangerous Biden agenda needs to be replaced," Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told "Fox News Sunday." when asked about his reasoning for opposing her leadership. Banks is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in Congress.

Since taking control of the caucus in 2021, Banks has sought to build a larger messaging platform and court influence with fellow Republicans. The Indiana Republican has made no secret that he is interested in replacing Cheney as conference chair.

“The most natural comparison to RSC chair is conference chair," Banks said during an interview with Politico. "And that’s something I think I would really enjoy because it’s what I’m doing now.”

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Another lawmaker competing for Cheney's leadership position is Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who has garnered endorsements from former President Donald Trump and the House's No. 2 leader, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

She added another big supporter on Sunday. Asked in an interview on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures” whether he supported Stefanik, R-N.Y., for the job of Republican Conference chair, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded: “Yes, I do.”

The push to remove Cheney from leadership underscores the dominance of Trump and allied factions within a Republican Party transformed over the past four years. Expressing loyalty to the former president, including support for debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, are important litmus tests for the party.

Banks told "Fox News Sunday" that he agrees Joe Biden was legitimately elected president, but he said he had "very serious concerns with how the election was conducted," citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Banks declined to say whether Trump bore any responsibility for the insurrection Jan. 6 when the president's supporters overran the Capitol, and he stood by his vote to contest the confirmation of the election results.

Since the riot at the Capitol, Cheney has been a vocal Trump critic , urging her fellow Republicans to disavow the former president and the unfounded conspiracy theories he levied about the 2020 presidential election.

Cheney, the third-ranking member of Republican House leadership and one of 10 House Republicans to vote for the president's second impeachment after the Capitol insurrection, survived an attempt to remove her from leadership in a secret ballot vote in February.

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President Donald Trump greets Rep. Jim Banks on the tarmac at Indianapolis International Airport, where he arrived to speak at the annual Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo at Banker's Life Fieldhouse on Oct. 27, 2018.
President Donald Trump greets Rep. Jim Banks on the tarmac at Indianapolis International Airport, where he arrived to speak at the annual Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo at Banker's Life Fieldhouse on Oct. 27, 2018.

The Wyoming Republican's continued condemnation of the party's embrace of Trump has renewed ire against her.

"I've had it with her. You know, I've lost confidence," McCarthy said on a hot mic Tuesday before a segment on Fox News, apparently not realizing he was being recorded, according to tape obtained by Axios. When Fox News' Steve Doocy asked whether another vote to remove Cheney would take place, the minority leader replied, "Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place."

Other national Republicans took a different view of the situation Sunday. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox cautioned on CNN's "State of the Union" that the leadership fight showed hard divisions in the GOP and that "as we talk about broadening the tent and bringing in a new generation of Republicans, we really have to allow for those types of differences."

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan condemned the centrality of Trump to the party on NBC News' "Meet the Press": "It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to 'Dear Leader' or you get kicked out of the party." He called the fight to replace Cheney "sort of a circular firing squad where we're just attacking our own party."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., one of the few House Republicans to vote for Trump's second impeachment, expressed support for Cheney on Sunday.

"It's incredible. Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She's just consistently been saying it. And a few weeks later, Kevin McCarthy changed to attacking other people," Kinzinger said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

“And so, I think the reality is that we as a party need to have an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to January 6. I mean, right now it’s basically like we’re the Titanic. We’re in the middle of this slow sink, there’s a band on deck telling everyone it’s fine, meanwhile Donald Trump is looking for women’s clothing trying to get on the first life boat,” he said.

"This is not good, not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country."

Cheney said the GOP is at a "turning point" that threatens to undermine the party and country.

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Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Liz Cheney: Republicans take sides in movement to oust her

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