Still, for the Republican National Committee to censure two of its own members is significant – a pointed escalation in the GOP’s bid to purge itself of Republicans perceived as disloyal to Trump. Republicans meeting here fumed over Cheney and Kinzinger’s participation on the Jan. 6 committee, which Trump earlier Thursday called a “corrupt Unselect Committee of political hacks and highly partisan sleazebags.” And even among RNC members who were hesitant to engage in intra-party warring, several said they would likely support the censure resolution on Friday.
Cheney and Kinzinger, two of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the riot at the Capitol, are widely loathed within the RNC for their lack of fealty to Trump. Kinzinger, of Illinois, is not seeking reelection this year, while Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and fierce critic of Trump, is facing a primary challenge. State party leaders in Wyoming voted in November not to recognize her as a member of their party.
For the national party, however, calling for the lawmakers’ ouster entirely from the House conference would have been more complicated. Several RNC members said they feared it would create a political headache for both the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, and the RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel. McDaniel said in November that Cheney “obviously” is “still a Republican.”
McDaniel spoke in favor of the resolution as passed, Dhillon said.
In statements earlier this week, Cheney and a Kinzinger spokesperson defended their records as conservatives and criticized the RNC for assailing them.
Cheney called leaders of the Republican Party “willing hostages” to Trump, while Maura Gillespie, Kinzinger’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email that the RNC’s “time would be better served by focusing on 2022 rather than an unprecedented and shortsighted effort to purge two lifelong Republicans for simply telling the truth and upholding their oaths of office.”
Bill Palatucci, a national committeeman from New Jersey who opposed the resolution, said after the meeting that while the outcome was somewhat better than initially proposed, the measure still wasn’t a worthwhile use of the party’s time.
“I still don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I’m glad it was watered down to essentially just a statement of the committee. But we should be shooting at Democrats, not Republicans.”