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Rep. Curtis, R-Utah, Explains His Vote To Remove Liz Cheney From House Leadership


Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming has been removed from her leadership position as the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. Republicans voted quickly today to oust Cheney as conference chairperson. All of this is happening after her continuing criticism of former President Donald Trump regarding his false claims of a stolen election, his role in the January 6 Capitol riot and his future in the Republican Party. Republican Congressman John Curtis of Utah issued a statement after today's vote that it's time for his party to, quote, "stop looking in the rearview mirror."

Congressman Curtis joins us now. Welcome.

JOHN CURTIS: Great to be with you. Great to have you.

CHANG: Now, you voted to remove Liz Cheney from her leadership position today. Tell me why you feel today's vote was necessary.

CURTIS: Well, I think the thing that's been frustrating to me is missing in the narrative is that this was not removed because of her stance on President Trump, nor because of her statements. That's really false narrative. We actually took a vote about two months ago where some people felt like she shouldn't serve because of that, and she passed that vote in an overwhelming fashion.

CHANG: But why did she get voted out today?

CURTIS: Because since that time, it's not the statements she's making. It's that she is not leading this party in a way that will help us accomplish our goals and objectives. There's nothing to do with her statements. It's that we need somebody who, as I mentioned, is not looking in the rearview mirror, but is looking forward. But we're seriously - we got major issues with a pandemic, with unemployment and in some cases overemployment. We have gas prices that are shooting through the roof because of a cyberattack. We've got inflation knocking on our doors. We've got what's happening in Israel. We've got the cost of health care. I mean, I could go on for, like, a half-hour with these issues.

CHANG: I hear you, but to be talking about those issues - you mentioned spending, Israel, health care - I mean, ideologically, Liz Cheney is a staunch conservative on all her policy positions. So why is that insufficient for her to continue as a leader?

CURTIS: Because she's not talking about those things. She's not advancing that agenda. She's stuck on this one issue. And that's OK. Listen. I don't disagree with what she's saying. I totally agree with them. And I think Republicans in general should talk about it more. But when you are the team leader, that's not enough. You need to be leading us forward.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you this. Are you concerned at all that this vote will be read by the public as a position on the Republican Party's commitment to continue to support former President Trump? Because even though you say today's vote was really not about former President Trump and it was about substantive issues and moving forward, a lot of people are reading this vote as this renewed, reinforced commitment to former President Trump.

CURTIS: Just the way you introduced the segment, that's what you said it was. You didn't mention that we had voted on this before. You didn't mention that there were frustrations with her leadership style.

CHANG: Are you concerned with the perception that this vote today was the former president?

CURTIS: Absolutely. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. And I think that we've done a terrible job as Republicans talking about what this vote really is. We don't have a problem with people who have different opinions. If you look at who we'll likely replace her with, you're going to find somebody with far more diverse opinions than Liz Cheney.

CHANG: Yeah. Let's talk about New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. She has the support of the House minority leader to step into the leadership role that Cheney has been removed from. She and 137 other House Republicans voted to object to the Electoral College count in Pennsylvania. I mean, given her continued support of former President Trump, do you believe that she is a good fit for a leadership role?

CURTIS: Well, it depends on what she does with that opinion. You know, if she's talking about all the issues that I clicked off a few minutes ago, that's what we need as Republicans. That's what we need as a country right now. It's like, you know, like, hey, you know, President Trump lost. Can we move on, please? Right? This is in the review view mirror. If there are issues with a January 6 commission, you bet I'll support all of those things, right? If there are issues that we can't - that we have to go back and deal with, I'll support all of those. But let's face it. Donald Trump is in the news today and this week for one reason - that's Liz Cheney. She has given him exactly what he wants. We wouldn't be talking about Donald Trump right now if it weren't for that.

CHANG: Republican Congressman John Curtis of Utah, thank you very much for joining our show today.

CURTIS: Absolutely. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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