IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'We need to make a change': McCarthy backs Stefanik's bid to replace Cheney as GOP conference chair

McCarthy said a vote to replace Cheney will come Wednesday when House Republicans are slated to meet behind closed doors.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15, 2019.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., questions former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15, 2019.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to his Republican colleagues saying it’s “clear that we need to make a change” ahead of a Wednesday vote that could remove GOP Rep. Liz Cheney from her position as conference chair.

It comes after McCarthy said Sunday that he supports Rep. Elise Stefanik in her bid to replace the Wyoming Republican as the party's third-highest ranking member.

McCarthy had previously refused to defend the Wyoming lawmaker or be seen with her as she faced an onslaught of criticism from former President Donald Trump's faction of the party for sharply criticizing him.

"Unfortunately, each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future," McCarthy wrote in the letter. "Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday."

He added, "All members are elected to represent their constituents as they see fit, but our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted from the important work we were elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve. The stakes are too high to come up short. I trust you agree."

In an interview on Fox News with Maria Bartiromo, McCarthy, R-Calif., was asked if he supports Stefanik’s efforts.

“Yes, I do,” he said, which was the first time he publicly voiced his position on the issue. Other top Republicans in the House, as well as former President Donald Trump, have coalesced around Stefanik, R-N.Y., for the role as the party seeks to expel Cheney, an outspoken critic of Trump's lies about the 2020 election, from leadership.

Asked if he has the votes to remove Cheney, McCarthy didn’t provide an answer but said that, “Leadership serves at the pleasure of the conference.” He said that Democrats are “destroying” the U.S. with their “expansion of government” and “socialist liberal agenda.”

“We need to be united and that starts with leadership. That’s why we will have a vote next week and we want to be united in looking, moving forward," he said.

McCarthy again dismissed the idea that members are upset with Cheney for speaking out against Trump's election lies and argued that she isn’t serving as a strong messenger of the GOP platform.

A vote to replace Cheney could happen as soon as Wednesday when House Republicans are expected to meet behind closed doors.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise publicly backed Stefanik last week. Trump previously said in a statement that Cheney "has no business" in GOP leadership, adding Stefanik "is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair."

Stefanik, who went to Congress as a moderate, has been an outspoken Trump booster, echoing his groundless claims about the election's illegitimacy.

Meanwhile, Cheney argued in a Washington Post op-ed article published last week that she was fighting a larger, more existential battle.

"While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country."

Republicans "need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality," she wrote.

"We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process," she said. "I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be."