ORLANDO — Tensions within Republican leadership boiled over during the House GOP retreat in Orlando, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy taking aim at his No. 3 deputy, Rep. Liz Cheney, during a press conference on Tuesday.
Following Cheney’s announcement Monday that she would not rule out a run for president, potentially pitting her against former President Donald Trump in 2024, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Cheney (R-Wyo.) distracts from the GOP’s policy goals in insisting on criticizing the former president.
“I think from a perspective if you’re sitting here at a retreat that’s focused on policy, focused on the future of making America the next century and you’re talking about something else, you’re not being productive,” he told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
McCarthy added that it’s “a question for the conference” on whether she remains a good fit for their leadership team.
The California Republican previously urged members to support Cheney during a conference-wide vote in February on whether she should be ousted from her role as House Republican conference chair, a position that entails helping lead their messaging efforts.
“People can have differences of opinion. … Liz has a right to vote her conscience. And at the end of the day, we’ll be united,” he said earlier this year about her vote to impeach Trump.
She ultimately prevailed in a 145-61 vote to retain her position.
But cracks in the working relationship between Cheney and McCarthy have become increasingly evident in recent months, with McCarthy no longer attending their weekly leadership press conferences following an awkward moment in February when they clashed over whether Trump should speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
Cheney — a defense hawk and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — has repeatedly said she does not believe Trump should have a place in the party moving forward.
Her stance has put her at odds with a number of her colleagues, who have accused her of providing Democrats with ammo to go after members and some even calling on her to apologize for her vote to impeach Trump.
But Cheney has stood firm in her position, telling The Post on Monday she believes that the senators who helped lead the efforts on challenging the election results should be disqualified from running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 — adding that she is not ruling out a bid herself.
“I think we have a huge number of interesting candidates, but I think that we’re going to be in a good position to be able to take the White House. I do think that some of our candidates who led the charge, particularly the senators who led the unconstitutional charge, not to certify the election, you know, in my view, that’s disqualifying,” she said.
On Tuesday, McCarthy remained noncommittal on whether he would help campaign for Cheney in her primary challenge.
“I haven’t talked to her about it,” he said.
Despite the tensions, both leaders have claimed the party is more unified than not, with Cheney and McCarthy highlighting Republicans’ plans for energy policy, the border and China.
Trump was not invited to attend the retreat despite having been present in previous years.