McCarthy endorses Cheney’s foe in Wyoming GOP primary

The tension between the two began following the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising at the U.S. Capitol when Cheney called on his party to quit former President Donald Trump and voted to impeach him, while McCarthy chose to move closer. of the old. President. Cheney’s criticism of Trump led her supporters in the House to push for her removal as GOP conference chair. It was a decision McCarthy initially resisted, but ultimately supported.

“I am proud to support Harriet Hageman for Congress,” McCarthy said in a statement Thursday. “[Throughout] Throughout her career, Harriet has championed America’s natural resources and helped the people of Wyoming reject burdensome and onerous government excesses.”

The California Republican later explained his endorsement in remarks to Fox’s Sean Hannity.

“Wyoming deserves to have a Rep who will be held to account against this Biden administration. Not a Rep they have today who works more closely with Nancy Pelosi, going after Republicans instead of stopping those radical Democrats. to do what they’re doing to this country,” McCarthy said.

Hageman responded to the endorsement in a statement, saying, “I’m so grateful for Chief McCarthy’s strong support, and I promise that when I’m a congressman from Wyoming, I will always stand up for our beautiful state and do the work that I want to do. I have been sent. do.”

McCarthy’s endorsement was first reported by the Federalist.

The policy of the Republican National Committee of Congress is not to get involved in primaries with incumbents, but individual members of the leadership are free to do as they please. Yet McCarthy has generally stayed out of these intraparty battles. His bet is that the goodwill this endorsement will earn him with Trump and his supporters will outweigh the risk that Cheney might win and thus show that his support is not so valuable. This dangerous calculus is usually the reason leaders stay out of the primaries.

However, as CNN reported earlier this month, McCarthy is facing increased pressure from the Trump-aligned wing of the GOP conference pushing him to take action against Cheney and fellow Republican Adam Kinzinger. of Illinois for their roles on the House Select Committee. investigation of the January 6 uprising. While McCarthy resisted strenuous efforts to kick the duo out of the Republican conference, he was ultimately able to convince members of the radical Freedom Caucus group that a better course of action would be to become active in the Cheney primary. Kinzinger decided not to run again.

Initially, McCarthy declined to say whether he planned to endorse Hageman.

While McCarthy’s move will be welcomed by members of the Freedom Caucus and could help him avoid a potential challenge to the president’s gavel if Republicans regain a majority, it won’t come free. Many rank-and-file Republicans are uncomfortable with party members turning on each other and fear it will ultimately hurt their efforts to win elections in competitive precincts.

“I think the party should try to keep working with them,” Texas Rep. Pete Sessions said. “I think it’s a fight between Donald Trump and (Kinzinger and Cheney), not the party.”

It will also make life even harder for the 10 Republican members who voted to impeach Trump. The former president has pledged to eliminate all of them and has already recruited and endorsed candidates in several other races.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington state who is part of the group that voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on Capitol Hill, said: ‘I would hate for that to happen,’ referring to leaders of the GOP potentially supporting Cheney’s main enemy. “It’s a distraction we shouldn’t engage in,” Newhouse said. “We should focus on really who our opponents are.”

And while siding with Cheney’s opponent may help McCarthy calm the concerns of far-right Republicans in his caucus, it by no means guarantees that they will all support him in an eventual presidential bid. On a recent episode of his podcast, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of McCarthy’s biggest critics, happily agreed when former Fox host Lou Dobbs suggested that Gaetz or the Representative from Ohio, Jim Jordan, appear as speaker.

“I personally believe he’s a RINO,” Dobbs said of McCarthy as Gaetz nodded in agreement. “The party needs strength, it needs vision, it needs dynamism, it needs new blood. It needs new leadership, it’s as simple as that.”

For his part, Cheney continued his campaign undeterred, overcoming Hageman with large sums and relying on the support of mainstream Republicans like his father, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George W. Bush. .

Camp Cheney downplayed McCarthy’s support for Hageman.

“Wow, she must be really desperate,” Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler said.

This story has been updated with additional comments from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

CNN’s Brian Rokus contributed to this report.

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