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Jumat, 05 Februari 2021

Donald Trump's power over the Republican party is being tested by Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney - ABC News

The Republican party's post-Trump identity crisis came into sharp relief this week, its contours and cracks illuminated by colliding controversies around two congresswomen.

Republican representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney both faced unusual votes designed to strip away their power after sharing opposing sentiments on popular conspiracy theories.

In both cases, the Republicans voted to support them.

The mixed outcome sends a clear signal about where the party is headed without Donald Trump at its helm.

The Republicans are trying to walk a calculated middle path — not ready to reject those with extremist views who've grown vocal under Trump, but still eager to court traditional Republicans put off by that same rhetoric.

Let's get you up to speed.

First things first: Who are Marjorie Taylor Greene and Liz Cheney?

The two US representatives symbolise two sides of the Republican party schism left in Trump's wake.

On the one side, there's Cheney, an establishment Republican and career politician, the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney. As the House Republican Conference Chair, she's also the third-highest Republican in the House of Representatives.

Liz Cheney, wearing dark blue rimmed glasses, stands in front of a US flag while speaking
Liz Cheney is an establishment Republican and career politician, who is the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney.(AP: J Scott Applewhite)

Cheney hails from Wyoming, a deep red state that went to Trump by a margin of 44 points in 2020, but that hasn't stopped her from taking little jabs at the Trump administration over the past four years, calling for a more traditional approach to politics.

But it's her more recent comments about Trump's role in the January 6 Capitol riot that've brought the most criticism.

"The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack," she wrote in a statement on the eve of Trump's second impeachment.

In the end, Cheney was one of 10 Republicans — and the highest-ranking among them — who joined all 222 Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote in favour of impeaching the former president.

Less than 24 hours later, the Trump loyalists in the House pushed for an intra-party vote to remove her from her Conference Chair position.

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington on January 6, 2021.
The impeachment trial of Donald Trump will look at his role in inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6.(Reuters: Leah Millis)

Cheney's criticism of Trump highlighted intra-party strife

Over the next three weeks, hundreds of Cheney's constituents in Wyoming gathered to protest her anti-Trump views, even as prominent leaders across the party stepped up to defend her.

The Trump loyalists pressed on with their measure. The result was a closed-door, four-hour meeting among House Republicans.

Multiple US media outlets with inside sources said Cheney survived the secret ballot vote 145 to 61, with one member abstaining.

House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters the vote showed that the party was "a very big tent" and alluded to an emerging campaign strategy to take back Congress from Democratic control in the 2022 midterms.

'Everyone's invited in' includes conspiracy theorists, too

If Cheney represents the Republican traditionalists who want to reject Trump, the other side of the schism is represented by Greene.

The freshman congresswomen from Georgia won her seat in the 2020 election by appealing to Trump's most fervent supporters, becoming a political firebrand before she even stepped into office.

a close up photo of Marjorie Taylor Greene wearing a blue mask with FREE SPEECH written across it
Marjorie Taylor Greene's social media accounts show a pattern of allegiance to widely debunked conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic views.(Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)

Extensive reporting on Greene's social media accounts shows a pattern of allegiance to debunked conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic views.

Greene has pushed the "stop the steal" election fraud narrative, promoted QAnon beliefs, questioned the 9/11 attacks, speculated that California bushfires were sparked by space lasers and called for the assassination of prominent Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It the her attack on the veracity of school shootings that proved to be the biggest test after Greene was selected by the House Republicans to serve on the education committee.

Amid public pushback from Republicans and Democrats alike, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that he supported removing Greene from the education committee, but said he would keep her second committee assignment (budget) intact.

The Democrats said this wasn't enough to prevent Greene from becoming an "embarrassment to congress," and threatened to take the unusual step of holding a vote to strip her of her committee assignments.

In the same four-hour, closed door meeting where Cheney's fate was decided, Greene allegedly expressed contrition for her comments and received a standing ovation for apologising for putting her colleagues in a tough spot. But the Republican House leadership opted not to hold a vote to decide her fate.

So the next day, the Democrats forced a vote on the resolution to strip Greene's powers.

So what happened to Greene in the formal House vote?

In the end, 199 Republicans voted to support Greene and keep her on both committees.

Only 11 voted against her, meaning 54 more Republicans voted in Greene's defence than in Cheney's. It's not exactly fair to compare the two votes.

Cheney's involved a secret ballot, rendering it more a test of where those Representatives want the party to go than where the constituents may want it to go.

After all, 30 per cent of Republicans still believe, at least partially, in the QAnon conspiracy theory Greene once peddled. The overwhelming majority of Republicans still believe the election was rigged, and only 8 per cent of the party's voters were in support of Trump's impeachment.

When it comes to Greene's power in congress, the 199 unified Republican votes weren't enough to outweigh the Democratic majority.

But the votes were more than enough for Washington insiders to draw wider conclusions about the party's relationship to conspiracy theorists writ large.

Prior to the vote, Greene delivered a 10-minute speech on the House floor, admitting that some of her past statements were false while stopping short of naming the harm they might have caused. Her critics said it felt less like an apology than an explanation.

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Her Republican colleagues in the House didn't defend the substance of Greene's claims but instead made points about process and free speech, saying that allowing the majority to remove a minority member from committee for words alone could set a harmful precedent.

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The Democrats made it clear that the reason for removing the congresswoman from her assignments went deeper than her views on school shootings; Greene's nods to violence, especially against members of Congress, would not be tolerated in the wake of the Capitol riot.

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What does this all say about the future of the Republican party?

This wasn't the first test of Trump's influence. It won't be the last.

In the next few weeks, Republicans will again be asked to go on the record regarding the Capitol riot, but this time it'll be in the Senate, for Trump's impeachment trial.

The vote is already shaping up to be a similar showdown.

In a brief outlining their case, Trump's lawyers made points about free speech and precedent. The Democratic House impeachment managers focused their case on the link between rhetoric and real violence. And US media outlets report that the Republican senators will mostly vote against convicting Trump.

A man wearing a suit with a red tie stands on the steps of a helicopter with his fist in the air
Former president Donald Trump's impeachment trial will be the next big test of his influence on the Republican Party.(AP: Alex Brandon)

In the next year, we'll start to see Trump's influence on congressional election campaigns.

Cheney already has one Republican primary challenger, and a Trump-connected fundraising committee is reportedly joining the campaign effort to oust her.

As the calls to remove Greene grew louder, the congresswoman's fundraising from her Republican base only increased to record levels. She raised more than $US175,00 from 13,000 small donors in 48 hours, according to her Twitter account.

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And as the wild week in Washington drew to a close on Friday (local time), Greene stood on the steps of the US Capitol for a press conference.

That morning, the Democrats began steps to pass a monumental $US1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill. US President Joe Biden delivered sombre remarks on the state of the country under coronavirus, saying "people are really hurting".

But Greene held an equal share of the spotlight. She used it to attack reporters for the way they'd portrayed her, call the Democrats "tyrannical" and paint herself as a victim.

She summarised her read on the future of the party in three simple lines.

"The Republican voters still support him," she said of Mr Trump.

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2021-02-05 21:06:00Z
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