U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, who is stepping out again in a public role after abruptly announcing in March that he wouldn’t run for reelection due to an episode of sexual harassment, seemed to chide Republicans Wednesday for ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from her House leadership post for her dogged opposition to former President Donald Trump.
Meeting behind closed doors, Republicans needed less than 20 minutes and a voice vote to oust the Wyoming congresswoman from her job as their No. 3 House leader, the Associated Press reported. The banishment, urged by Trump, showed the hold he maintains on the party — and his ability to effect change on the political careers of those who show disloyalty.
“Today, our conference in the House of Representatives decided its future,” Reed, one of the earliest House backers of Trump’s run for the presidency, said in a statement. “I defer to its collective wisdom. While I will always be a proud Republican, I also see the reality of the challenges that face our nation and the world.
“The world is on fire — our own citizens are killing each other in our streets, our country is divided as it has never been before, the U.S. dollar is likely losing its reserve status, and our nation has lost control of the global supply chain,” the congressman’s statement continued. “With these things weighing heavily on my mind, I intend to describe myself and priority going forward as ‘American.’ May God bless, help and guide the United States of America.”
Was Reed distancing himself from the core of the House GOP that voted to remove Cheney from their No. 3 leadership post, while suggesting the party needs to move forward?
Was Reed, a five-term congressman whose national profile was seemingly on the rise less than two months ago, wholly rejecting Trump’s tenacious influence on the GOP?
When the Times Herald sought to ask the Corning congressman to expound on his statement and reaction to Cheney’s ouster, a spokesperson said he wasn’t available.
Reed said in March he will retire from public service at the end of his term following allegations of sexual misconduct with a lobbyist in 2017. But before that, he was clearly laying the groundwork to be perceived as more moderate, dismissing claims by Trump and his supporters that the election was “stolen” and pledging to work with the new Biden administration as much as possible.
He also condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6.
Reed, who frequently touted his former co-leadership of the House’s bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, was close to announcing his run for the Republican nomination to challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2022 before the sexual harassment scandal imploded his political position.
As for Cheney, who lost her House GOP leadership position for her persistent repudiation Trump’s election falsehoods, she insisted she’ll keep trying to move the party past Trump’s influence.
Daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney has also rebuked Trump for his encouragement of supporters on Jan. 6. She lashed out again on Wednesday.
“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person,” she told her colleagues before the vote, AP reported, according to a person who provided her remarks on condition of anonymity. “You have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.”
Just minutes after she accused her fellow Republicans of dishonestly buttressing Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the White House, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with.”
McCarthy spoke a week after Trump released a statement saying, “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”
AP reported Cheney’s critics say her offense wasn’t her view of Trump but her persistence in publicly expressing it, undermining the unity they want party leaders to display in advance of next year’s elections, when they hope to win House control. Several also say GOP voters’ allegiance to Trump means the party’s electoral prospects without him would be dismal.
Cheney’s ouster effectively means the GOP is setting a requirement for admission to its highest ranks: adherence to, or at least silence about, Trump’s fallacious claim about widespread voting fraud. In states around the country, officials and judges of both parties found no evidence to support his assertions.
Cheney, 54, has told Republicans she’s not quitting Congress and will run for reelection next year, but she will have to survive a near-certain GOP primary challenge from a Trump-recruited opponent.
Her replacement in the party’s House leadership is expected to be Rep. Elise Stefanik of Upstate New York, who entered the House in 2015 at age 30, then the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Stefanik owns a more moderate voting record than Cheney but has evolved into a vigorous Trump defender — her star rose precipitously in her defense of Trump during his impeachment trial in 2019 — who’s echoed some of his claims about widespread election cheating.