Republican National Committee members passed a resolution on Friday to formally censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois over their work on a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in an unprecedented rebuke of sitting members of Congress.
The resolution, passed by voice vote at the party’s winter meeting in Salt Lake City, highlights the rift in the Republican party between loyalists of former President Trump and critics like Cheney and Kinzinger, who have sought to investigate his role in last year’s attack on the Capitol and Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The measure calls for the party to no longer support the two members over their behavior “which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic,” according to a draft first published by the Washington Post.
It also describes the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the committee, was forced to clarify Friday afternoon that the mention of “legitimate political discourse” did not include the violence that took place last January, which left at least five people dead and injured more than 100 police officers, adding in a tweet that the discourse “had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”
In a statement ahead of the vote, Cheney said party leaders had made themselves “willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election.”
“I’m a constitutional conservative, and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump,” she said. “History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what.”
Last year, the House Republican caucus voted to oust Cheney as GOP conference chair, the No. 3 leadership spot, replacing her with vocal Trump supporter Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
Some prominent Trump critics and moderate voices within the party spoke in defense of Cheney and Kinzinger, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the latter of whom was party’s 2012 presidential nominee and the RNC chairwoman’s uncle. Kinzinger announced last fall he would not seek reelection, after his district was redrawn.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” Romney tweeted Friday. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”
The committee also advanced a rule change this week to ban its presidential nominees from participating in debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The rule will likely receive a vote before the entire party at its summer meeting.
McDaniel first signaled that her party would move to pull out of the 2024 presidential debates in a letter to the commission released last month, which criticized the organization for holding debates after early voting had begun, and for changing the rules of past debates. The letter also accused the bipartisan commission of past bias.
The criticisms echoed complaints made by the Trump campaign during the 2020 debates, when the commission decided to mute the microphones of candidates who weren’t speaking after Trump repeatedly interrupted then-candidate Joe Biden during the first debate. The shift away from the debates could help Trump if he becomes the party’s nominee in 2024.
In her address to the RNC on Friday, McDaniel said her party was not walking away from debates entirely.
“We are walking away from the CPD because it’s a biased monopoly that doesn’t serve the interest of the American people,” she said. “If we have a free and fair forum, we win.”