“[McCarthy] obviously has the ability to remove people from leadership or remove people from the conference,” Kinzinger said, pointing to House Republicans stripping Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) of her leadership position. “I hope he does.”
McCarthy condemned Greene on Tuesday, saying her comments were “appalling” and “wrong” but not taking any disciplinary action.
Greene, a first-term lawmaker, has been highly controversial, having already been stripped of her committee assignments for endorsing posts calling for violence against Democrats and suggesting school shootings were a hoax. McCarthy previously declined to remove Greene from her committees, offering just to reassign her, saying she made the comments before she was in office.
Kinzinger hasn’t been afraid of laying into Trump-friendly firebrands like Greene, as he was one of 11 Republicans who voted to strip Greene of her committee assignments.
Kinzinger has made waves as one of the few Republican lawmakers to consistently rebut Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him. After being one of 10 Republican House lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump this year, Kinzinger has become one of his most prominent GOP critics, along with Cheney, who lost her leadership post over her criticism of the former president.
Last week, he was also one of 35 Republicans who bucked House GOP leadership and voted in favor of a bipartisan commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection. Kinzinger was also the first Republican to call for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to resign over sex trafficking allegations.
Kinzinger said on Tuesday that he wouldn’t support McCarthy for House speaker as of now.
“This country deserves people that are going to do tough things and tell the truth,” Kinzinger said.
McCarthy originally said Trump “bears responsibility” for the Jan. 6 riots but less than two weeks later said that “I don’t believe he provoked it.”
Kinzinger said he’d “love” to see Cheney as speaker, and said that there were many other good candidates but declined to name them, saying it could be “damaging to their prospects.”
Kinzinger unloaded on McCarthy throughout the event, saying he had been putting loyalty to Trump over loyalty to members of his conference, going back to as early as last summer, or even before. Kinzinger said McCarthy would often defend Trump after his “berzerk” statements.
“When the former president would attack Liz [Cheney] or whatever the issue du jour was, Kevin would defend the president. That’s a backwards role,” Kinzinger said.
He also said McCarthy ignored his warnings, in a conference call with the Republican conference days before Jan. 6, that questioning the election results could result in violence. He said he hadn’t had a “frank” talk with McCarthy since before Jan. 6.
A spokesperson for McCarthy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Republican Party has been grappling with its future, and so far, those backing Trump have been winning out. The former president still enjoys broad support among GOP voters, with 80 percent of Republicans viewing him favorably, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last month.
Kinzinger has argued that sticking with Trump is detrimental for the party in the long term. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that Trump is winning the war so far, but said it’s not over yet.