During his appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who chairs the Republican Study Committee, reminded me why he's one of the most clear-headed Republicans in office. By sticking to his main point, that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is a distraction Rep. Banks made the right movie.
While host Chris Wallace and the congressman spent nearly half of his 10.5 minute long interview discussing the leadership of Rep. Cheney as the chair of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Banks indicated he was less than thrilled that this had to be such a major part of their conversation. "We shouldn't be talking about Liz Cheney, we should be talking about pushing back against the radical Biden agenda, and this is all a distraction from her ability to be able to do that," he said at one point.
Look, you can tell that Rep. Banks doesn't delight in having to go after another leader of the party. He acknowledged that "it's uncomfortable at times, but one of my jobs is to hold my Republican leadership accountable for being focused on the Republican ideals that we stand for, and the single mission that we have to win back the majority."
Then again, it would be understandable if Banks was less than thrilled about his colleague, as she did call a memo of his "neo-Marxist."
Where Rep. Banks did not take the bait was in discussing the voting record of Rep. Cheney's potential replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). "If Cheney is being replaced and she's clearly, it seems, more conservative than Stefanik, is it just because of the fact that she's not as loyal to Donald Trump," Wallace suggested.
That Stefanik has a voting record less in line with Trump than Cheney has been a point of contention for some. One could argue that's not the point, but such is a discussion for another article. Rep. Banks pointed out that "I don't know who will replace her, but that will be a discussion the House conference will have this week."
President Donald Trump and Rep. Steve Scalise, the second-highest ranking Republican in the House, have endorsed Stefanik for this role, but we'll see.
Here was Rep. Banks response to Wallace's question, his first answer during the interview:
Well, Chris, let's start with that. This completely misses the point about why we need a change in Republican leadership. Let me tell you, Republicans are almost completely unified in a single mission to oppose the radical dangerous Biden agenda, and win back the majority in the mid-term election. And any other focus other than that is a distraction from stopping the Biden agenda from what it has already done in three months, sending this economy in a tailspin, the crisis at the border, making America less safe abroad from appeasing those like in Iran, by flirting with reentering the Iran nuclear deal. That's our focus as a House Republican conference. And any leader who's not focused on that, on pushing back against the radical, dangerous Biden agenda, at this point, needs to be replaced. But the point here is that we are almost entirely unified on that mission except Liz Cheney.
Wallace kept at it with how Cheney opposes Biden's agenda, supposedly. And so Rep. Banks reminded Wallace of the real point of all of this:
That has not been seen as much as most of us in the Republican conference would like to see. As you mention, I'm the leader of the largest conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee. It's uncomfortable at times, but one of my jobs is to hold my Republican leadership accountable for being focused on the Republican ideals that we stand for, and the single mission that we have to win back the majority. And at this point, the reason, Chris, that you and I are talking about Liz Cheney on this important program on Sunday morning, is the exact evidence that she's failed in her mission as the chief spokesperson of our party. We shouldn't be talking about Liz Cheney, we should be talking about pushing back against the radical Biden agenda, and this is all a distraction from her ability to be able to do that. That's why she will likely be replaced this week, we'll sort it out. I don't know who will replace her, but that will be a discussion the House conference will have this week that we're going to take up because at this point it's necessary to do so.
Look, I actually don't mind Wallace, including and especially when it comes to not letting his guests--on both sides of the aisle--futz around. In this case, though, he just didn't seem to be listening. He said he
"understand[s]." I doubt that. Hopefully by the end he got the message.
It's not a matter of how nobody is ever allowed to criticize President Trump ever because we all are in a "cult" and must be loyal to him on every issue for ever and ever. That is not the point. What is the point is party unity, as Rep. Banks continued to emphasize:
I'm not [unwilling to discuss her criticism of President Trump] and as a rank-and-file member of the House Republican conference, Liz Cheney or anyone else in our conference, can stay focused on other issues unrelated to us winning back the majority in the midterm election. But I know that the belief that I have, Chris, the majority of our conference has, that she's lost focus on the single mission we have to winning back the majority, to pushing back against the radical Biden agenda, is the reason she needs to be replaced. But, as a rank-and-file member, and make it clear, to all of your viewers, that we're not kicking her out of the Republican Party, if she's removed from her leadership post. But in her leadership post, she doesn't just, any member doesn't just represent their district, they represent 212 members of the Republican conference, and right now it's clear that she doesn't represent the views of the majority of our conference, or the focus that all of us have to win back the majority.
Because Wallace couldn't help hammering this point, the last minute of the interview addressed Rep. Cheney's op-ed for the Washington Post, specifically where she wrote that "history is watching," and indicated they can't go forward as a party until they've condemned Trump's "big lie" about a stolen election, Wallace asked Rep. Banks to opine if the congresswoman was "misguided in making those points."
Again, kudos to Rep. Banks for how he stuck to how "I've called on Liz Cheney to rejoin the Republican team and help us go out and win the majority in the midterm election. That's where my frustration has bubbled up." He also referenced the memo he wrote to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on how to keep Trump voters in the party, which Rep. Cheney was the only Republican leader to attack. "If she doesn't get that, that that's an important part of the formula to win the majority in the midterm election, to win the White House back in 2024, she doesn't belong in a leadership position."
You could say that Rep. Banks shouted it louder for the people in the back, if not at least Chris Wallace, hopefully. The congressman has a lot of patience, but that's a good thing. People need to hear his message.