As Republicans Back Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene, GOP Must Pick a Side Eventually

Experts have told Newsweek that the House Republican caucus' vote to back Rep. Liz Cheney while refusing to sanction Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene will do nothing to bridge a divide between the populist and establishment wings of the GOP, with a civil war between the factions looming.

Speaking to Newsweek, experts said the Republican Party likely spend as much energy fighting among themselves as they will attacking Democrats over the course of President Joe Biden's first term.

The experts feel the chances of the two sides remaining united over the next four years are low, even if the GOP has maintained a vaguely united front following the Cheney (R-WY) and Greene (R-GA) spats.

They also expect Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to wrestle with the party's future direction in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections.

Rep. Liz Cheney Heads to House Floor
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) heads to the House floor to vote at the U.S. Capitol on February 03, 2021 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

"Battles between the Trumpian and establishment wings of the GOP will loom large over the party regardless of the leadership's decision not to take action against Cheney or Greene," Thomas Gift, the director of University College London's Centre on U.S. politics, told Newsweek. "The GOP has always been a big tent party—representing a disparate coalition of factions and ideologies—but the schism among Republican elites in Washington is arguably wider than at any time in recent memory."

The political scientist later added that the "strengths and passions" of the Republican Party's dueling factions meant the prospects of party solidarity were unlikely, and argued that unity would be "another casualty" of Trump's tenure in the White House.

John Owens, a professor of U.S. government and politics at the University of Westminster, took a similar view. But he also cautioned that much of the GOP's future would depend on Trump's activities over the coming months and years.

"The problem they have is that he is still hugely popular within the party, which is still his, he can command significant media attention, and can raise huge amounts of money for it," he said. The professor also laid much of the blame for the GOP's split on Trump's door, while noting that divisions had been long running in the party, particularly since Newt Gingrich's stint as speaker.

"Over the coming months, McConnell and McCarthy will be focussing on the 2022 midterms—and trying to figure out what the post-Trump presidency party stands for, and whether that is more than knee-jerk personal support for Trump," Owens added.

As House Republicans met on Wednesday, public spats between Trump allies and Cheney over her impeachment vote, as well as a row between establishment conservatives and Rep. Greene, threatened to become more serious skirmishes in the GOP civil war.

But the caucus ended up voting 145-61 against a proposal to remove Cheney from her post as chair of the GOP conference, while party leadership refused to take action against Greene over her past support for the QAnon conspiracy theory and other controversial remarks.

"Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference," McCarthy said in a statement. "I condemn those comments unequivocally. I condemned them in the past. I continue to condemn them today."

Following the meeting, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a leading critic of Cheney over the past few weeks, said the vote to keep her in the post would only encourage him to continue to "get out in America" and push his agenda further.