Liz Cheney, the embattled No 3 ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, has been forced to defend herself for having fist-bumped Joe Biden during his address to Congress this week.
Cheney, who has come under sustained attack from within her own party for having been one of very few Republicans to criticize Donald Trump for inciting the 6 January Capitol insurrection, posted on Twitter that she strongly disagreed with the Democratic president’s policies.
“But when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way. We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.”
The by now notorious fist bump, that lasted less than two seconds, came as the president was making his way to the podium before his first speech to a joint chamber of Congress on Wednesday. Despite the fact that Biden made similar gestures to many around him, his contact with such a high-ranking and controversial Republican sent sparks flying.
“The video of Biden fist-bumping Cheney is going to be used by every Trumpist who wants Cheney to lose her seat next year as evidence that she is a Republican In Name Only (Rino) and a sellout of conservative principles,” remarked CNN’s Chris Cillizza.
Sure enough, the moment was gleefully seized by Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. “So glad she’s in the GOP leadership,” he snarked. “I guess they wanted to be more inclusive and put Democrats in there too?!?”
The elder Donald Trump has relentlessly baited Cheney after she became one of only 10 Republicans to vote for his impeachment for inciting violent insurrection on the US Capitol on 6 January. This week he slammed her as a “warmongering fool”.
With Trump keeping up the pressure, Cheney is reported to be facing grumbles from inside the congressional Republican group about her leadership position. Relations with the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, are stressed, with McCarthy remaining a Trump acolyte while Cheney continues to criticize the former president.
In her home state of Wyoming, Cheney is also facing a primary challenge from several local Republicans seeking to oust her in fealty to Trump. Cheney told Punchbowl News that she was confident she would survive the contest and that she was standing firm.
“Anybody who wants to get in that race and who wants to do it on the basis of debating me about whether or not President Trump should have been impeached, I’ll have that debate every day of the week,” she said.