House Republicans voted by a large margin Wednesday to allow Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney to stay on as the GOP conference chairwoman following an hours-long meeting where members aired their grievances over her vote to impeach former President Trump last month. Just 61 Republicans voted to remove Cheney from her post, while 145 voted for her to stay in a vote by secret ballot.
The vote came after Cheney told her Republican colleagues she would not apologize for her decision, according to a source familiar with the meeting. She later praised the result as a "terrific vote."
"We're not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership," she said after the meeting. "It was very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and then we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the really dangerous and negative Democrat policies."
She entered the meeting Wednesday with the support of both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Whip Steve Scalise, the top two GOP leaders in the House.
"People can have differences of opinion. That is what we are having a discussion about. Liz has a right to vote her conscience," McCarthy told reporters during a break in the meeting.
But both of the top leaders allowed and even encouraged members to question Cheney's decision leading up to the GOP meeting. In an interview last month, McCarthy said he had "concerns" about the fact that she did not disclose her vote or her plan to speak out against the former president ahead of time.
After the vote, both men said their conference was in a good place.
"We just got a resounding shot in the arm that we got a team," McCarthy said. Scalise said the conference "came out much stronger" because everyone was able to air their grievances.
Republican Representatives Matt Rosendale of Montana and Andy Biggs of Arizona, who were among the members most frustrated with Cheney, led the efforts to remove her from her leadership post. The vote to remove her ultimately fell far short of the more than 115 members the anti-Cheney forces claimed would vote against her.
The chief irritant for Republicans backing the removal effort was Cheney's decision to announce her position the day before the vote, a source familiar with efforts to remove Cheney from her leadership position told CBS News. Throughout the debate the next day, House Democrats quoted her words on the floor.
Cheney was the most high profile and highest-ranking of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president. After she made the announcement, Rosendale called for her to step down, saying she "failed to consult with the Conference, failed to abide by the spirit of the rules of the Republican Conference, and ignored the preferences of Republican voters."
The vote caused her trouble back home as well. She has drawn three primary challengers for her House seat, including Wyoming State Senator Anthony Bouchard, who said her impeachment vote "shows just how out-of-touch she is with Wyoming." Her colleague, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, traveled to her home state to rally against her, calling her a "Beltway bureaucrat turned fake cowgirl" and blasting her impeachment vote and support for American military involvement overseas.
Alan He, Zak Hudak and Jack Turman contributed to this story.