Sen. Joni Ernst defends Liz Cheney's right to an opinion amid push to oust her from GOP leadership

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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, defended embattled House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney on Wednesday amid growing calls among prominent Republicans for the Wyoming lawmaker’s ouster from the leadership post.

Cheney drew the ire of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others in recent weeks amid repeated clashes with former President Donald Trump. Ernst, the only other Republican woman in an elected leadership position, noted that she disagreed with Cheney’s vocal criticism of Trump but defended her colleague’s right to express her opinion.

“Any elected official should stand their ground. If you feel firmly about something, you should stand your ground. But I also believe that we need to come together as a party, recognize we have differences within the party, but the goal with us should be to win seats,” Ernst said at an event in Iowa, according to Politico.

Cheney’s status as GOP conference chair is in doubt as prominent Republicans abandon their support. McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise each expressed support for Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a Trump ally, to replace Cheney.

Trump and Cheney have clashed since January, when she was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Trump has also endorsed Stefanik to replace Cheney.

Ernst did not definitively say whether she felt Cheney should remain as conference chair or be replaced. However, the Iowa senator asked her GOP colleagues to consider whether the public clash was “helping or hurting” the party.

“I know Liz. I appreciate Liz so much. And she feels very strongly about her stance. And again, I know many Republicans that feel very strongly about their stance: pro-Trump, not for Trump, whatever it is. But at the end of the day we have work to get done,” Ernst added.

A House GOP leadership source told Fox News that a vote next week on Cheney’s status as the conference chair is “more than likely.” She previously defeated a no-confidence vote in February.

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