House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday took a shot at Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — the lone Republican to vote to convict President Donald Trump.
“I don’t think Romney is effective in any shape or form,” McCarthy told a group of reporters outside the House chamber.
But McCarthy dodged questions about whether Romney should be expelled from the Republican Conference, which some Trump allies have called for. He also wouldn’t discuss whether it was appropriate for Trump to question the Utah Republican’s Mormon faith. In announcing that he would vote “guilty” on the abuse of power charge during Wednesday’s Senate impeachment vote, Romney got choked up while discussing how his decision was guided by his faith.
While Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming said she disagreed with Romney’s decision, she had a different take than McCarthy: She called him a “man of conscience” and said he is a “real value for us to have in the Senate.
“Senator Romney is a good and honorable man,” Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said in an interview. “And I don’t think anybody ought to question his faith.”
Trump, speaking during a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Thursday morning, complained that some people use “religion as a crutch,” though he didn’t mention Romney by name.
“I never heard the president use the word ‘Romney’ at the prayer breakfast,” said McCarthy, who was also in attendance.
McCarthy, one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, kept his troops together during the impeachment vote in the House and helped deliver a bipartisan vote against both articles. Trump and his allies were hoping for a repeat in the Senate, but Romney broke ranks to join all Democrats in voting to remove the president on one charge — the first senator in American history to vote to convict a president from their own party.
Trump on Thursday praised McCarthy during a victory speech at the White House, predicting that the backlash to impeachment would help Republicans win back the House this November.
“Kevin McCarthy has done an incredible job,” Trump said. “You’ll be speaker of the House. I really believe it.”
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and helped defend Trump from impeachment, said he was “very surprised” by Romney’s decision and said there is “a lot of anger” among Republicans over the defection. But Stewart added that he doesn’t think Romney should be punished for his vote.
“If we expelled everyone who voted differently, than we’d have no one in the conference,” Stewart told reporters.