WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee voted Friday to formally censure two of their own party’s members — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — because of their work investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The measure was adopted Friday by voice vote at the RNC’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City, which brought together the party’s 168 members for their general session. The measure, which was combined with a handful of other resolutions such as one condemning the Chinese government, passed overwhelmingly. Only a small handful of objections were voiced.
An RNC panel had advanced the measure on Thursday, which said that the committee will “immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior, which has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the conference.”
It continued by ripping the two members of Congress for their criticism of former President Donald Trump.
“The Conference must not be sabotaged by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who have demonstrated, with actions and words, that they support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump more than they support winning back a Republican majority in 2022,” the resolution said.
The measure described the two members as “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” in their roles on the House committee investigating Jan. 6.
In a statement, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Cheney and Kinzinger “crossed a line.”
“They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol,” she said.
Paul Farrow, chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, told NBC News that RNC members’ frustration with Cheney and Kinzinger is over the Jan. 6 investigation “starting to broaden their scope of what they’re looking at.”
“It almost seems like a fishing expedition where people are just trying to find something to hang on someone,” he said. “That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. Our intent, as we look at it, is to hold our elected officials accountable, to make sure that they’re doing their best to keep the country moving forward. They’re not doing that right now.”
Ben Proto, chairman of the Connecticut GOP, was one of a handful of members to object to the resolution. He told NBC News that while he doesn’t “necessarily disagree that Cheney and Kinzinger have poked their finger at the Republican Party,” he feels any such rejection of the two should come from voters, not the party.
Kinzinger is retiring at the end of his term while Cheney is facing a primary challenge. Cheney has outraised her primary opponent by millions.
“The Wyoming voters will decide if they don’t want Liz Cheney,” he said, adding, “I’m trying very hard to get my folks in Connecticut to stop standing in a circle and going ‘ready, aim, fire.'”
“We need to stop doing that around the country,” he added. “Sometimes, I think we kind of get in our own way.”
In advance of the vote, Cheney said Thursday that the leaders of the GOP have made themselves “willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy.”
In a Thursday statement, Kinzinger said his “efforts will continue to be focused on standing up for truth and working to fight the political matrix that’s led us to this point.”
“Rather than focus their efforts on how to help the American people, my fellow Republicans have chosen to censure two lifelong members of their party for simply upholding their oaths of office,” he said. “They’ve allowed conspiracies and toxic tribalism [to] hinder their ability to see clear-eyed.”
Several lawmakers have denounced the move by the RNC including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. McDaniel is Romney’s niece.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” he tweeted Friday. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., also tweeted late Thursday, “The RNC is censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger because they are trying to find out what happened on January 6th — HUH?”
In his speech just prior to the vote, RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks said Republicans “must remain united.”
“Republicans aren’t afraid to debate each other,” he said. “We have a range of views on the issues, which is a good thing. … But after we have our debates and the primaries are over, it is incumbent on every single person in this room to bring Republicans of all stripes together so we can win.”