Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have condemned the Republican National Committee's vote to censure GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The measure was adopted last week by voice vote at an annual meeting of the RNC.
"Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. "They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol."
The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump attempting to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s win — saw five people killed, including a police officer.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the RNC “crossed a line” with their censure vote.
“Their statement didn't even make mention of the violence that day,” he continued, calling their actions “chilling and plainly dangerous.”
“Theirs will be nothing less than everlasting shame,” he added, adding: "It puts us on a road where our democracy is at risk."
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the few Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump for his role in the riot, said that the censure vote was “absolutely wrong.”
“When the party is taking an approach or saying things that I think are just absolutely wrong, I think it is my responsibility as an Alaskan senator speaking out for Alaskans to just speak the truth,” Murkowski said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
“What happened on January 6, 2021 was an effort to overturn a lawful election resulting in violence and destruction at the Capitol,” she wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday. “We must not legitimize those actions which resulted in loss of life and we must learn from that horrible event so history does not repeat itself.”
“As Americans we must acknowledge those tragic events, and we cannot allow a false narrative to be created,” she continued. “We cannot deny the truth—to suggest it was ‘legitimate political discourse’ is just wrong.”
Murkowski wasn’t the only Republican who spoke out against the censure measure.
A group of 140 former Republican officials and leaders, including former White House communications directors Alyssa Farah and Anthony Scaramucci, former RNC chair Michael Steele and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, issued a statement condemning the RNC's censure measure.
"By censuring Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for their role in investigating the January 6th attacks, they have betrayed the GOP’s founding principles and ceded control of a once-great movement to grifters and extremists," the group wrote. "The RNC has also signaled that it no longer welcomes people of conscience."
"The RNC’s description of the January 6th insurrection as 'legitimate political discourse' is an affront to the rule of law, peaceful self-government, and the constitutional order," they continued. "There can be no justifying the horrific attack that day, and we condemn the Committee for excusing the actions of men and women who battered police officers, ransacked our nation’s Capitol, called for hanging the Vice President of the United States, and sought to overturn a free and fair election."
"History will mark this censure as a turning point for the RNC – a time of choosing between civility and patriotism, on the one hand, and conspiracy and political violence on the other," they concluded. "We stand firmly for the first set of values. We stand proudly next to principled leaders such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And we stand united against efforts to defile our democracy."
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he does not agree with the RNC's censure resolution "if it's applying to those who committed criminal offenses and violence to overtake our shrine of democracy," and encouraged Republicans to "unify."
“The censure resolution by the RNC is wrong; undermines respect for our rule of law; and divides our party unnecessarily,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement, praising those who dissented from the vote.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, McDaniel’s uncle, wrote in a Twitter post. “Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”
“The GOP I believe in is the party of freedom and truth. It's a sad day for my party — and the country — when you're punished just for expressing your beliefs, standing on principle, and refusing to tell blatant lies,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote on Twitter.
“The RNC is censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger because they are trying to find out what happened on January 6th - HUH?” wrote Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, described the RNC’s censure as “lowest of low.”
“I respect him for his political courage time and again,” Durbin said of his fellow Illinois lawmaker. “I’m sorry he was a subject of that censure.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, Kinzinger did not mince words, calling the vote a “defining moment for the party” and blasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as "the weakest leader that has ever, frankly, existed in that position."
Kinzinger also had ire for the former president, calling him "the worst president the United States of America ever had" on CNN on Monday.
"I just had a kid three weeks ago, and when he's five or 10 and learning about history, I want to make sure that he gets a full accounting of what happened on Jan. 6," Kinzinger said, adding he hopes other Republican members of Congress can do the same about the way they voted that day. "That’s going to be something in five or ten years that’s going to be hard to explain if you’re not on the side of truth."
"He was a liar and a charlatan, and he was a man with a more fragile ego than anybody I’ve ever met," Kinzinger told CNN he would tell his newborn son about Trump, adding: "The irony of it is he walks around like the tough guy, but he’s the one who gets more offended and wounded and sad than anybody I know."