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Cheney holds on to House GOP leadership position amid furor over impeachment vote

Liz Cheney, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, refused to apologize for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Liz Cheney, the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, held on to her title as House GOP conference chair during a secret ballot Wednesday.

Three sources said the vote among Republican House members was 145-61.

Cheney refused to apologize for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump during the closed-door meeting with her GOP conference Wednesday evening, according to a source in the room. Cheney was among the 10 House Republicans who voted for the article of impeachment accusing Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which led to the deaths of five people.

Cheney, a frequent critic of Trump and his rhetoric, said at the time: "There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the president."

Cheney spoke briefly to reporters after she held on to her title.

"We really did have a terrific vote tonight, a terrific time this evening, laying out what we are going to do going forward, as well as making clear that we're not going to be divided and that we're not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership," she said.

"It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and that we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the really dangerous and negative Democrat policies," Cheney said.

The lopsided vote to keep Cheney in leadership, despite her vote to impeach Trump, also signals a hidden disenchantment with the former president in the House GOP ranks. The impeachment vote was public, meaning lawmakers would be held accountable by their party's voters for their position. But the Cheney vote, on a resolution introduced by Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., was a secret ballot, freeing lawmakers to vote their preferences without fear of repercussion.

The impeachment vote created fury and fractures within the party, leading some pro-Trump lawmakers to protest Cheney in her home state, Wyoming and call for her to be stripped of her GOP conference chair title and setting up a potential primary challenge.

Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard announced last month that he would challenge Cheney in 2022. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a staunch Trump ally, also urged supporters of Trump in Wyoming last week to vote her out.

Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is also facing the prospect of censure from the Wyoming GOP, according to The Associated Press.

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One Cheney ally called the vote to keep her in leadership a “significant blow” to the Trump wing of the party and the House Freedom Caucus, adding it was the first big test of the future of the party, and one side clearly won.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters that he stood up for Cheney in the meeting.

"People can have differences of opinion. That is what we are having a discussion about. Liz has a right to vote her conscience. At the end of the day, we will be united," he said.

The tension between those who supported impeachment and those still loyal to Trump was also illustrated this week when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released a statement defending Cheney.

“Liz Cheney is a leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on them. She is an important leader in our party and in our nation. I am grateful for her service and look forward to continuing to work with her on the crucial issues facing our nation," McConnell said.

Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.