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Liz Cheney warns against voting for election deniers at TribFest

Houston Chronicle 9/25/2022 Cayla Harris, Austin Bureau
© J. Scott Applewhite, STF / Associated Press

AUSTIN -- The United States democracy is on the ballot this fall, and voter must reject election-deniers down ballot, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, told a crowd in Austin Saturday night.

"If we elect election-deniers, if we elect people who have said that they're not going to certify results or who have been trying to steal elections, then we are really putting the republic at risk," Cheney, an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, said at the closing keynote of this year's Texas Tribune festival.

She encouraged fellow Republicans not to sit out this November and to actively vote against anyone who has falsely questioned the 2020 presidential election results. Since his loss, Trump has peddled the lie that widespread voter fraud cost him a second term.

"Partisanship has to have a limit," Cheney said. "There’s got to be an end."

The talk came days after the Democrat-controlled U.S. House passed a slate of election reforms that Cheney had co-authored. The legislation, a direct response to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol, intends to prevent presidents from overturning election results and make it more difficult for members of Congress to object to them.

All Texas Democrats supported the measure, while all Texas Republicans opposed it. Just nine Republicans, all of whom are not returning to Congress next year, voted in favor of the legislation. Cheney, who co-chairs the committee investigating the insurrection, criticized her GOP colleagues for "defending the indefensible."

The bill would clarify that vice presidents can't stop Congress from certifying an election, as Trump had pushed former Vice President Mike Pence to do. It would require support from one-third of the members of both the House and the Senate to raise any objections to counting the electoral votes, instead of just a single member, while also tightening the reasons for those objections.

The bill's fate now rests in the Senate, where a bipartison group of senators is also working on potential changes to election law. The Senate version differs slightly, requiring one-fifth of members to raise an objection instead of one-third.

"There's enough support for getting something done that I think we will," Cheney said.

Cheney, who recently lost her primary to a Trump supporter and will not return to Congress next year, said she will do everything in her power to prevent Trump from taking office again. She said she hasn't lost faith in the GOP yet, but she won't consider herself a Republican if members nominate Trump as their presidential nominee in 2024.

Republicans' loyalty to the former president, despite his false elections claims, demonstrates "how sick the party is and how much work we have to do," Cheney said. She cast a ballot for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, but she said she regrets those votes and wouldn't do it again.

As Republicans aim to take back the majority in the House this November, Cheney cautioned that a GOP-led chamber would give outsized power to election-deniers like U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Jim Jordan of Ohio.

"That is a dangerous thing for the country," Cheney said.

Cheney also has "no doubt" that a Republican majority would nix the Jan. 6 committee. She declined to talk specifics about the committee's work but promised that "any interaction that Donald Trump has with the committee will be under oath and subject to penalties of perjury."

She also declined to say whether the committee would investigate Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for his actions on Jan. 6. Paxton was in Washington, D.C., that day and participated in Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally before the president's supporters stormed the Capitol.

Paxton, a Trump ally, had also filed a lawsuit in December 2020 seeking to overturn the presidential election results in four battleground states that opted for Democrat Joe Biden. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly tossed the challenge.

Cheney called that lawsuit "absurd."

"It was without merit, and should not have been should not have been filed," she said.

Benjamin Wermund contributed reporting from Washington.

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