On Friday, the Republican National Committee took an unprecedented step and cincused Rep. Liz Cheney as well as Rep. Adam Kinzinger because they participated in the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack. Cheney is running for reelection as Wyoming's Republican National Committee. The RNC also honored a rule change that allows the party to spend money on Trump-endorsed primary opponents if they choose.
The censure resolution was passed by the entire RNC at its Salt Lake City winter meeting. Although the initial resolution had text that would have allowed Kevin McCarthy, the California House Minority Leader, to expel them from conference, it was ultimately reduced to public rebuke. Since voting to impeach Donald Trump, Cheney and Kinzinger were under fire for their handling of Jan. 6 riots.
According to the resolution, the House Republican conference cannot be "sabotage" by Cheney or Kinzinger. This refers to Jan. 6, when the pair participated in "a Democrat-led persecution ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate politics discourse," suggesting a wide effort within the party to ignore the events at Capitol that led to heated confrontations with police and injuries to and deaths.
Both parties have used censures against their members. They have no real ramifications. Instead, they are a symbol of discipline for those who stray from the party's established positions. National Republicans have shown no willingness to support Trump-criticizing elected officials and to aid in the search for information on Jan. 6, including who, and how, they were involved.
Although the censure is not very significant in practice, it was a request ruling that allowed the national party to spend money specifically on Harriet Hageman, Cheney's primary opponent. She received Trump's endorsement but has not been able to keep up with her fundraising pace. Kinzinger will be retiring in the early 2023 after serving his Illinois district for the last term.
Rule 11 states that the RNC cannot contribute money or in-kind aid to candidates or state offices without the written approval of all members of the state committee. This is subject to the exception that the candidate or person running unopposed in a GOP primary must be filed before the deadline.
The RNC, unlike the party's senatorial and congressional committees, doesn't have the same flexibility in supporting and spending for candidates. In the Aug. 16 primary, Cheney will face several GOP nominees. In non-presidential year, the national committee works more closely with state parties to support their operations.
Frank Eathorne, Wyoming GOP Party Chairman, and the two other members of the state's committee signed a letter expressing support for Hageman during the winter meeting. According to an RNC official, Ronna McDaniel, the RNC Chairwoman will support Rule 11 changes and honor the request of the state party. The Washington Post reported the change first.
Although the RNC is yet to decide if it will actively support her campaign in any manner, Hageman could benefit from national party support. Cheney has been a major fundraiser, raising nearly $7.2 million in 2021. Hageman, which raised approximately $745,000 in 2021's second half, is quite a distance behind Cheney.
Doug Heye, an ex-communications director at the RNC, believes it could be a talking point and boost for Cheney during her primary. He was a RNC communications director during the 2010 midterm cycles when Republicans retook the House and flipped 63 seats.
"The censure does not matter. Heye states that it's the Rule 11 move that will allow them into the primary and take unprecedented steps to target an incumbent. It also allows Cheney, basically to say that the party elites of Washington and your hand-selected Wyoming chair are trying to decide this race for yourself and support a candidate who cannot raise enough money on their own.
While the state GOP parties have punished or censured their members who supported Trump’s second impeachment, the RNC vote remains their most prominent rebuke to Republican lawmakers. The polarizing events of January 6 remain a force in Congress, and in the country. Many Republicans in Congress have downplayed or moved on from the discussion of the riots. A smaller GOP group also suggested that the FBI might have been involved in the attack. This claim has since been discredited.
Both Cheney, Kinzinger were intimately involved in the Jan. 6 select panel investigating the attack on Congress that attempted to stop President Joe Biden from being certified as a winner. They are the only GOP members of the panel, and they were both appointed by Nancy Pelosi (California House Speaker).
The censure news made it clear that the Republicans stood firm in their decision to join the Democrats on Jan. 6's panel.
"I am a constitutional conservative. I don't recognize members of my party who have abandoned our Constitution in order to embrace Donald Trump. Their fate will be decided by history. Cheney stated in a statement that he will continue fighting for the Constitution republic.
Kinzinger stated that the GOP had allowed "conspiracies" and "toxic tribalism" to hinder its ability to see clearly.
The censure has caused a sharp division within and outside the GOP. Trump has repeatedly taken aim at Cheney, Kinzinger and their vocal criticisms of his, their votes for impeachment and their involvement in a committee he decried as a witch hunting.
Heye and other Republicans who worked previously for the RNC condemned the censure resolution. Michael Steele, who served as chairman of the RNC from 2009 to 2011, condemned it as a "pathetic act by cowardice taken its current leadership." Some current elected officials, such GOP Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), voted to convict Trump during his impeachment trial.
"Shame falls upon a party that would censure people of conscience who seek truth in the face vitriol. "Honor attaches to Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, for seeking truth even if it comes at great personal risk," Romney, McDaniel’s uncle, stated in a statement.
Some Republicans believe that Trump is responsible for the party's decision-making. Trump still holds a strong grip on the party and has the potential to be a 2024 candidate. He also has the ability to make waves during the November midterm elections. Republicans are well-positioned to regain control of Congress' majorities due to historical trends in which the party in power loses seats in midterms and Biden's low approval rating.
Trump's popularity has declined, even though he is participating in several other House and Senate primaries. Some wonder if it is possible to please a former president who values extreme loyalty.
Heye states that they must show loyalty to anyone who made it clear that they are willing to tank the midterms. The alligator grows bigger when you feed it. What should you do the next morning? Because you have to feed the alligator, you'll need to try another version.