Liz Cheney ousted from role as House GOP Conference chair; replacement still unclear

Cheney pledges to ensure Trump 'never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office' on her way out

House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney Wednesday morning in a closed-door vote from the No. 3 spot from leadership -- but the Wyoming Republican remained defiant on the way out.

Cheney had remained steadfast in her opposition to former President Donald Trump and his "dangerous lies" about the 2020 election being stolen from him -- putting her at odds with other House Republicans who wanted to move on from the Jan. 6 riot and unite the party to win in the 2022 midterms.

Cheney was removed by a voice vote and took a swing at Trump after the Capitol meeting.

CHENEY GOING DOWN SWINGING: WARNS REPUBLICANS BEFORE VOTE TO REMOVE HER FROM LEADERSHIP

"I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office," Cheney said after her ouster. "We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution, and I think it's very important that we make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the Constitution."

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (AP)

Republicans, however, felt that Cheney's continued comments against Trump and conflicting statements against leadership were playing in Democrats' hands and becoming a distraction. She already survived a vote of no confidence in February, but instead of treading lightly after the warning shot, Cheney continued to double-down on her rhetoric, angering her colleagues. 

So on Wednesday, Republicans were quick to move on from Cheney, with Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., sending out a gleeful tweet after her removal.

Other Republicans said Cheney was too focused on attacking the GOP than pushing back on President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's policies. 

"For months it’s been clear that Cheney is unfit for any leadership role in the Republican Party," said Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. "Conservatives tried to fix the problem in February, but weren't listened to. Even so, I’m glad we’ve recognized this reality as a conference. Turning the page on her disastrous tenure will allow House Republicans to focus our messaging on fighting the Pelosi/Biden agenda."

An election on who will replace Cheney will occur at a later date. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., is the front runner and has the endorsement of Trump and the top two GOP leaders: Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Lousiana. 

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., center, speaks with President Donald Trump during a bill signing ceremony for the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., center, speaks with President Donald Trump during a bill signing ceremony for the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) (AP Newsroom)

Trump praised the decision to remove Cheney immediately after the vote and attacked the congresswoman and daughter of the former vice president. 

"Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being," Trump said in a statement. "I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our country. She is a talking point for Democrats."

HOUSE GOP CONFERENCE LIKELY TO REMOVE CHENEY BUT MAY NOT INSTALL STEFANIK RIGHT AWAY

Stefanik, who has been actively building support for the job throughout the month, officially kicked off her public campaign for the position immediately following the Cheney vote. She promised a unified message focused on combating Democrats and socialist policies.

"Our members believe that the stakes are far too high for us to be divided," Stefanik said in a letter to her colleagues Wednesday asking for their support. "We stand shoulder to shoulder in believing that we have a historic opportunity to work as a team to win back the Majority in 2022 on behalf of the American people and save our great country."

But there's been some conservative blowback to Stefanik's coronation by leadership with certain members complaining McCarthy moved too fast to endorse her. Stefanik represents a more moderate New York district north of Albany and has a far less conservative voting record than Cheney, who represents deep-red Wyoming. The conservative group Heritage Action gave Cheney a 91% score compared to just 56% for Stefanik during the most recent Congress. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., introduces Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence to speak to Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Fort Drum, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., introduces Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence to speak to Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Fort Drum, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, wrote a letter to his GOP colleagues Tuesday questioning Stefanik's voting record against Trump's priorities and urged Republicans to either leave the No. 3 spot vacant or "choose someone who reflects our conservative values."

"Therefore, with all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats," Roy, R-Texas, wrote to his colleagues in a memo obtained by Fox News.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK COULD BE ONE-TERM GOP CONFERENCE CHAIR IF SHE BEATS LIZ CHENEY

If Stefanik succeeds, all three members of the top GOP House leadership will have voted against the certification of President Biden's electoral college victory on Jan. 6. In contrast, Cheney accepted Biden's victory as legitimate and was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. Trump was later acquitted in the Senate.

McCarthy, who initially cast blame on Trump for sparking the insurrection, has since reunited with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and welcomed him back to the party. He believes that Trump and House Republicans working together is the best pathway forward for Democrats to lose their majority in the 2022 elections. 

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On the eve of the vote, however, Cheney warned in a fiery six-minute House floor speech Tuesday night that Republicans need to move on from Trump because the former president "risks inciting further violence" and had "misled" millions of Americans with disproven claims that the results of the 2020 presidential election were fraudulent.

"Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar," Cheney said. "I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy."

Fox News' Thomas Barrabi and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.