Why one Utah congressman supported ousted GOP leader Liz Cheney

(J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)



SALT LAKE CITY — One Utah congressman stood behind Rep. Liz Cheney, who House Republicans ousted Wednesday as their No. 3 leader over her repeated criticism of former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, supported Cheney remaining in her leadership position, and said his vote reflected that.

"Republican House candidates won big in 2020 due in part to the broad appeal, diversity and unique strengths of leaders across the Republican Party. Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney represent the inclusivity that so many voters appreciate. They each bring constructive perspectives and priorities to the table, and we are only stronger because of that," he said in a statement.

House Republicans voted quickly Wednesday to remove Cheney, a massive shakeup that ties the party tighter to Trump and threatens to create a new litmus test in the GOP, according to Politico.

The fast-moving campaign to dump Cheney, Congress' highest-ranking Republican woman, and replace her with a Trump loyalist was orchestrated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his top deputies, Politico reported. The California Republican and his allies complained that Cheney's constant readiness to call out Trump's lies about the 2020 election was a distraction that prevented the party from unifying around a cohesive message to win back the House next year.

Cheney briefly addressed the conference before the voice vote, vowing to keep fighting.

"If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I'm not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy," Cheney said.

"But I promise you this, after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln."

Moore said he has remained vocal and consistent on the importance of election integrity, and I will continue to prioritize this issue by showcasing Utah's inclusive and secure process. He said he believes President Joe Biden won the election.

"It is our duty to accept that result, even as we double down on our efforts to oppose this administration's out-of-control spending. For the sake of the country, House Republicans must continue to push back on these policies and communicate our positive message for the future," he said.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was among those who voted to remove Cheney, saying it was not a vote to condemn the Wyoming Republican but a vote to unify the GOP.

"Members of Congress have a right, and a duty, to speak their minds in representing their constituents. But a member of leadership has even greater duties," he said.

As conference chairwoman, Cheney was responsible for both party messaging and member services.

Stewart said the position is responsible for galvanizing and guiding the party back to a majority in the House

"That means focusing on creating the future America needs, one that stresses the dignity of work, individual freedom over government dependence, and the principle of equal opportunity for all to rise," he said.

Rep. John Curtis said the vote to oust Cheney was not an attempt to silence her from speaking the truth about the election, noting that he himself was one of the first Republicans in Congress to recognize the legitimacy of the 2020 election and that he does not question the results.

"In fact, I have encouraged my colleagues to speak out against any false narratives around the election, recognize Joe Biden as the duly elected president, and begin working with him to better America," he said.

Curtis said the vote was about removing someone who Republicans broadly believe has been an inefficient leader and has distracted the party from moving forward and uniting Americans.

"In the end, I am looking for leadership who inspires, motivates and moves us to advance the best policy," he said. "It is time for the Republican conference to stop looking in the rearview mirror and return to focusing on advancing our ideas and legislating."

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, was away from Washington and did not participate in the vote.

"The Republican Party is the party of solutions, and our leadership should reflect that. Moving forward, I am focused on protecting my constituents and all Americans from the Biden administration's big tax, open border, ultra-inflation, and weak foreign policy agenda," he said in a statement.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, expressed his thoughts ahead of the Cheney vote in a tweet Tuesday.

"Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won't gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few," he said.

On Wednesday, Romney told reporters, "The best future for democracy, as well as for my party, is if we stand by the truth and we welcome people who have different points of view. I happen to agree with Congresswoman Cheney. I think she is a woman of character and integrity, and I respect her."

A spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the senator doesn't weigh in on leadership votes in the House.

A replacement election for the House GOP conference chairmanship is expected later this week or next week. So far, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. — a moderate turned Trump ally — is the only candidate running for the position.

Moore said with Cheney's removal, he would vote for Stefanik to take her place.

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Dennis Romboy

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