Cheney hasn't changed

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When Rep. Liz Cheney is not in Washington, D.C., she lives a life not all that different from her Wyoming constituents. A mother of five, she recently dropped her youngest son off at a summer camp, and one of her daughters is a rodeo barrel racer. Time away from work means skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

And the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former second lady Lynne Cheney of course likes to read. "That's partly a function of having the parents that I have; both of them are students of American history," she said.

Back at work at the Cannon House Office Building, there's still plenty to be done despite Cheney's recent removal from her position as House conference chairwoman over her party's handling of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and its aftermath. Cheney's continued criticism of the party and of Donald Trump rankles members of her caucus who think she's living in the past while giving Democrats ammunition for the future. She disagrees: "The path to victory is not embracing Trump. The path to victory for Republicans is to stand up for free enterprise, for life, the Second Amendment, a strong national defense, and fidelity to the Constitution. Those are fundamentally the principles that the Republican Party has stood for and should continue to stand for."

Cheney remains a full-throated conservative lawmaker and hasn't hesitated to turn her fire on the current president. Looking at Joe Biden's first five months on the job, Cheney is not impressed, calling the steps he's taken a "real disappointment."

"I think that we've watched him do several things that are ill-advised, such as the announcements to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and the Iranian nuclear deal. The Biden team also seemed unprepared for their meeting with China in Alaska," she said. She also calls Biden's proposed defense budget "insufficient," arguing it "doesn't reflect the nature of the threats that we face."

On the subject of China, she waved off the criticism she receives from the Left (and some corners of the Right) that she's a "warmonger," thinking every solution in foreign policy is armed conflict. Like Ronald Reagan, Cheney's view is that a robust defense impedes the possibility of war. "I think that we need to recognize, No. 1, we want to avoid a military conflict. The way to avoid a military conflict is to have a military in every domain that is superior. And that presents such an obstacle that the Chinese would never think they could prevail in a military conflict."

Her assessment is that both parties have gotten it wrong over the last 20 years. "Both Democrats and Republicans thought that if we opened up economically, if we welcomed them into the WTO, we would see China open up politically. But, instead, during that period of time, they used the technology to establish a surveillance state and, frankly, to try and establish a global surveillance state. China's a very significant and serious threat."

Cheney identified one of those threats as China's nuclear buildup. She cited Adm. Chas Richard, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, who called Beijing's capability "breathtaking." Richard said it wasn't just the number of warheads, but its nuclear command and control that allows integration of various mechanisms, giving the country "a launch-under-warning or launch-under-attack capability."

Cheney said, "Right now, the Russians have the pacing threat, but you've got a second pacing threat from the Chinese, and we've never been in that situation before. We also have to understand the Chinese government is using every tool at its disposal. So, whether you're talking about our supply chain issues, critical minerals, cyber across the board, the world they want to live in is a world in which they set the rules."

On the domestic front, Cheney echoes a common criticism of Biden, that he ran and won as a centrist but has thus far not signaled a desire to check his party's worst instincts.

She criticized the rush to push through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, pointing to Nancy Pelosi only allowing one hour to debate the bill and the harmful effects, such as inflation and a massive increase in the debt, of spending money the United States doesn't have. She also took aim at the For the People Act, which Republicans recently blocked in the Senate.

"Democrats called it the For the People Act, but that's not what it is. It would turn the Federal Election Commission into a partisan agency," she said. "It would require taxpayer funding for congressional races, and it infringes on First Amendment rights, limiting, even more, the kind of speech people can engage in, in the run-up to elections. It's a bad bill, and we shouldn't federalize elections."

On the issue of energy, Cheney expressed disappointment in Biden's ban on oil and gas leasing on public lands and his termination of the Keystone pipeline. Referring to fossil fuels as a "national treasure," Cheney said she'll continue to advocate for their use. When asked about the news that Wyoming would turn a retiring coal-fired power plant into a mini-nuclear reactor, Cheney praised the decision, saying, “I think nuclear power is something that we ought to be pursuing. Those who say that they want clean energy but don't want to look at nuclear power are being hypocritical."

Cheney had more incisive criticism of "the Squad," led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and what she sees as a total lack of accountability from Democratic leadership in addressing extremist comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar: "What she's said aren't just 'mistakes.'" Cheney brought up remarks from Omar in which she "suggested moral equivalence between the U.S. and Israel and Hamas." She said Omar often expresses "clearly antisemitic views" and has faced no consequences. She pointed to the 2019 House resolution that was supposed to address comments Omar made at the time but was broadened to a condemnation of "hate" that didn't name the Minnesota representative. Cheney said the lack of accountability creates an obstacle to getting much accomplished.

"We have big differences, and we ought to have a very intense and vigorous debate on substance. But it definitely looks to me like the Democratic leadership in the House, and the White House as well, are really nervous ... scared ... and don't want to cross the far Left in their party."

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently said if the GOP takes back control of the House, he will swiftly move to have Omar removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Cheney said she'd "absolutely" support the move.

That area of agreement between McCarthy and Cheney stands in contrast to the contentiousness of the past several months. Asked about her removal as House conference chairwoman, Cheney understands it became inevitable. "It clearly became untenable for me to be the conference chair because I am unwilling to perpetuate the big lie," she said. On winning elections, she said that the party has to "do the right thing, morally. And the right thing, from a constitutional perspective, we have to be built on the basis of truth. And we have to be focused on principles — conservative principles, conservative ideals — and the most conservative of all those principles are adherence to the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution. Those are very clear and not negotiable. That is not the view of the current leadership of the party in the House."

Pressed on the idea that her removal was more strategic in terms of avoiding the distraction of a former president and focusing on winning back control of the House, Cheney stated, "It's not about the Republican agenda. Look at my record. Look at my ratings from various conservative organizations, which are higher or at least equal to everyone else in House leadership."

When asked about the Republican primary challenge against her in Wyoming, Cheney smiled. "I have been a conservative Republican, ever since I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan. And I believe firmly and strongly in the principles that have defined the conservative movement. At the end of the day, the voters decide, and I am really privileged to engage in these debates and stand up for what I believe. I'm never going to stop fighting for that."

Jay Caruso is managing editor of the Washington Examiner magazine.

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Tags: Liz Cheney, Congress, GOP, Republican Party, Joe Biden, Conservatives, Donald Trump, Wyoming, House Republicans, House of Representatives, Policy, Kevin McCarthy

Original Author: Jay Caruso

Original Location: Cheney hasn't changed

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