The deep divisions roiling the U.S. Republican Party came into clear focus this week in controversies about Representatives Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene – two politicians with little in common beyond their work address.
House of Representatives Republicans already were debating whether to punish Cheney, the No. 3 member of party leadership, for voting to impeach Donald Trump when CNN reported that Greene in online posts had expressed support for executing Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the most prominent of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection for his speech urging his followers to “fight” and march to Congress on Jan. 6. Pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol while lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s election victory.
Cheney accused Trump of “betrayal” in a statement that many House Democrats cited in casting their own votes to impeach.
Greene, a first-term Georgia congresswoman who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, came into office defending Trump and lashing out at Democrats for everything from impeachment votes to the installation of metal detectors at the door of the House chamber.
In a Twitter post, Greene did not specifically address details of the CNN report but said some of her social media posts “did not represent my views.” She accused CNN of “writing yet another hit piece on me focused on my time before running for political office.”
In choosing which to reprimand or support, Republicans can send a signal as to whether they want to pivot away from the Trump era or double down.
“Given everything that’s going on, they’re all scared – for really good reasons,” said Doug Heye, a former aide to Republicans including former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
If Republicans hit back at Cheney for her impeachment vote of conscience but leave Greene unscathed, “There will have to be a very long explanation on what Republicans hope to achieve now as well as in the coming years,” Heye said.
Greene had already gained notoriety during her campaign for Congress last year because of her interest in QAnon, which advances the baseless claim that prominent Democrats are part of a cabal of pedophiles.
Heye said many Republicans privately concede they are exhausted by Trump’s incendiary language, the nepotism he brought to the White House and “the self-profiting; all those things Republicans would never allow an Obama or a Clinton to get away with.”
Tensions between Cheney and some of her fellow conservatives could deepen on Thursday when Republican Representative Matt Gaetz is scheduled to appear in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Cheney’s home state, where he plans to lambaste her for voting to impeach Trump.
“I believe that we ought to embrace the spirit and style of President Trump,” Gaetz told reporters on Monday.
Republicans are expected to address Cheney’s revolt during a “family” meeting, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy framed it this week. But toppling Cheney, 54, is a multi-step process and some House Republican aides, who asked not to be identified, think there is nowhere near enough support to punish her.
Cheney, who declined requests for an interview, backed Trump’s impeachment after Republican leadership decided not to pressure members to vote against it.
While McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for the mob that attacked the Capitol and told Fox News his members can tolerate “differences of opinion,” more recently he has criticized Cheney for not being a team player.
“I assume Cheney will continue to come under heavy fire from within” the Republican ranks, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
In the longer term, however, Cheney “actually could benefit from her daring words” urging impeachment, especially if Trump’s star fades, Sabato said.
One Republican congressional aide described her as a hard-nosed pragmatist.
“She’s no-nonsense and not afraid to be a ball buster,” said the aide. Cheney has won a reputation for running an effective leadership office that is responsive to members’ needs, the aide said.
As for Cheney, whose Twitter feed declares “The world needs more cowboys,” she has stood her ground, telling reporters, “I’m not going anywhere.”