NRCC will ‘absolutely’ support Republicans who backed impeachment, finance chair says

CHICAGO — Rep. Darin LaHood, a vocal ally of Donald Trump, said Thursday that the campaign arm of House Republicans won’t seek to punish members of the conference who supported impeaching the former president.

The Illinois Republican was named finance chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday, just as the organization unveiled its strategy for retaking the House after the party made a surprisingly strong showing in the 2020 election.

Capturing the chamber in 2022, LaHood said in a phone interview, is a prize worth more than threatening to starve fellow Republicans of precious campaign cash.

"If we are going to become the majority party — which I think we will — you’ve got to accept that we’re a big tent," LaHood said, adding that Republicans in Peoria, Ill., are different than those in Florida, New York or California. "I have tried to take that philosophy and that attitude of that’s how we’ll become the majority party."

He added: "I look at our freshman class that just came in, and that diversity is what we have to build off."

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and eight other House Republicans who broke with their party last month to support Trump’s second impeachment have faced rebukes from their own ranks and censure from state party officials. The GOP embrace of — or distance from — Trump has created a national schism for the party. But LaHood, who got Trump’s endorsement last fall but avoided criticizing his House colleagues, has compartmentalized that.

LaHood didn't directly address the divide over Trump inside the party, but he acknowledged, “there’s a lot at stake."

Republicans are just a handful of seats away from controlling the House, and when asked if the NRCC would fund reelection campaigns of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment, LaHood said “absolutely.”

He said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and NRCC Chair Tom Emmer asked him to step into the role, "and I’m proud to be working with both of them and the rest of our team, including [Reps.] Liz Cheney and Steve Scalise."

Still, LaHood said he has not talked to Kinzinger — who has started a PAC to combat Trumpism in the GOP and has regularly denounced the former president since the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol — and largely avoided discussing his fellow Illinois Republican. The NRCC also has a longstanding policy of staying out of primaries and just backing whoever Republican voters choose for the general election.

“The NRCC’s stance has not changed," committee spokesperson Michael McAdams said in a email. "We support our members in general elections and do not get involved in primaries. We look forward to building on last cycle’s successes and retaking the majority.”

Taking on the NRCC gig has another upside for LaHood, the son of President Barack Obama’s first transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, a Republican: He hasn’t ruled out a possible run for governor of Illinois.

But for now, he said, he's focused on raising money for the GOP. The congressman is a skilled fundraiser, with more than $3.5 million in the bank — a considerable sum for a Republican in a deep blue state. He also hosted the NRCC’s 2019 spring dinner, the biggest annual fundraiser for the organization.

“The fact that we didn’t lose one incumbent [in 2020] is pretty incredible, and then to pick up all the seats that we did, so our job at the NRCC is to protect our incumbents, and the money we help raise will go to that,” LaHood said.

The NRCC also named Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia to lead the group's recruitment efforts.

LaHood, a former federal prosecutor, considers Trump a friend. He served as a co-chair of Trump’s re-election bid and ran as a delegate for him.

Earlier this week, the NRCC issued a list of 47 House Democrats they hope to pick off next year.

Emmer says the goal will be to talk about what regular voters care about, such as reopening schools. He has dismissed Democrats’ strategy to link Republicans to the QAnon conspiracy theory and anything associated with the Capitol riots.

Midterm elections are historically a check on the party in power, and LaHood is banking that will “be good news for us.”

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Kinzinger slapped with censure by Illinois county GOP

CHICAGO — Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger got hit with his first formal rebuke late Wednesday from Republican officials in his district for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

The LaSalle County Republican Central Committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution censuring the GOP congressman for taking actions “contrary to the values” of the party, county GOP Chair Larry Smith announced.

In a statement, Smith said the measure passed with 88 percent support. The voting started Tuesday night but the results were released a day later. Republicans, he said, are also concerned that Kinzinger hasn’t engaged with county Republicans for six years but has found time to take his anti-Trump messaging to national media platforms.

Smith said he’s received “hundreds upon hundreds” of emails, texts and phone calls from within the county and beyond “expressing frustration” at Kinzinger’s attitude and actions.

The results of the county vote were announced the same day Kinzinger and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney defended their support for impeaching the former president amid critiques from fellow House Republicans. Both lawmakers, who were among the 10 Republicans to vote with Democrats against Trump, have become a symbol of the GOP's national schism over the party's direction.

At least one Republican says lawmakers will pay for their votes back home.

“Tonight Liz Cheney was fighting on her home turf — Washington D.C. And if Washington won’t hold her accountable for her failed leadership, Wyoming will,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement, according to Playbook.

Kinzinger hasn’t shied away from his vote — and has recently said he wishes he had voted to impeach Trump the first time, too.

During Wednesday's lengthy House GOP caucus meeting, Kinzinger told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy it was "embarrassing" that the party spent more time defending Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) than Cheney, according to a source familiar with the discussion. Greene is facing calls from Democrats that she be removed from her assignments to the House education and labor committees and plan to hold a floor vote to strip her of them Thursday.

Cheney was at risk of losing her leadership spot over the impeachment vote but McCarthy went on to give “a full-throated defense” of her, and the caucus voted to let her keep her leadership position on a 2-1 margin.

Kinzinger issued a statement Thursday morning saying he “proudly voted” to support Cheney as conference chair and that he’s “committed to restoring our party.”

Though the LaSalle County GOP’s vote to censure is symbolic, it also signals that Kinzinger doesn’t have the full support of Republicans who overwhelmingly reelected him in November. It may also fuel speculation about how Kinzinger, who had been talked about in Republican circles as a potential Senate or gubernatorial candidate, is calculating his political future.

Some of Kinzinger's critics had gathered in Ottawa, Ill., the county seat of LaSalle and the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate, a few days before the vote to call out the congressman, the media and others as they falsely claimed Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

LaSalle County sits south and west of Chicago and is one of nine counties in Kinzinger's 16th Congressional District. He also represents parts of five other counties. LaSalle isn't seen as a key GOP organization in the state. It's historically more of a union county that's trended red in recent years — backing Kinzinger and Trump — overwhelmingly. But it also has elected a Democratic state representative.

In a statement, Kinzinger spokeswoman Maura Gillespie responded to the censure vote, saying: “While Capitol Police Officer [Brian] Sicknick was being honored in state for his ultimate sacrifice — defending our democracy — the LaSalle County GOP was condemning Congressman Kinzinger for trying to hold the president accountable for the actions that led to his death.”

The Illinois Republican Party hasn't made any clear moves to censure Kinzinger, but that could change depending on who gets elected its new chair on Saturday.

Lake County Republican Chair Mark Shaw and former Illinois Gaming Board executive and former lieutenant governor candidate Don Tracy of Springfield are the main contenders among three candidates. While Tracy has said he disagrees with Kinzinger’s actions, he opposes censure. Shaw says he hasn’t taken a stand, though he’s discussed censure with Republicans around the state.

Republicans have long been outnumbered by Democrats in the blue state of Illinois and already are divided over urban versus rural issues. The debate over Trump and censure is further exacerbating that divide.

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