WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - House Republicans removed Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post on Wednesday (May 12) as her vocal and persistent criticism of former President Donald Trump widened the rift in the party over its future direction.
The 212-member House GOP conference brought the long-running drama to an end behind closed doors.
The decision to replace her as House GOP conference chair boldly underscores the firm grip Mr Trump continues exert on many Republican lawmakers, who view his support as essential to winning back the House in 2022.
The move was backed by Mr Trump, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and his top lieutenant Steve Scalise.
Ms Cheney remains in her seat as Wyoming's lone representative in the House, and said she will continue to speak out against Mr Trump's false claims about 2020 election and the danger they pose for the party and the country.
"We must go forward based on truth," Ms Cheney told reporters after the vote. "The nation needs a party based on fundamental principles of conservatism."
Ms Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump after the Jan 6 Capitol insurrection by his supporters, also said she will "do everything I can to ensure" that Mr Trump has no chance of getting elected to the presidency again.
Mr Trump has kept up a steady drumbeat against Ms Cheney, and in a statement released on Wednesday morning before the vote, he said she "is bad for our Country and bad for herself. Almost everyone in the Republican Party, including 90 per cent of Wyoming, looks forward to her ouster - and that includes me!"
The conference held off on choosing a Cheney successor until at least later this week.
Republicans plan to hold a candidate forum on Thursday, with a vote on Friday on Ms Cheney's replacement.
Mr McCarthy and Mr Scalise both have already publicly have already endorsed a potential successor, another Trump loyalist, Ms Elise Stefanik of New York. So has Mr Trump.
"We have broad support going into Friday," Ms Stefanik said after the meeting.
But some of the most conservative House Republicans, led by Representative Chip Roy of Texas, say they aren't yet on board yet with picking Ms Stefanik, who was elected as a moderate and has voted against the Republican party more often than Ms Cheney.
"I think we need to have a real contest and not a de facto coronation of a hand-picked successor," said Representative Bob Good of Virginia.
Some suggest the current conference vice chair, Mr Mike Johnson of Louisiana, should at at least temporarily hold the post. Mr Johnson declined to discuss that possibility on Tuesday night.