WASHINGTON — Democrats lined up to greet former vice president Dick Cheney in the House chamber Thursday, a rare moment of outreach to a onetime party villain who is now one of the few high-profile Republicans to fully acknowledge what happened before and during last year's fatal Capitol riots.
His daughter Rep. Liz Cheney is under attack by her own party as she continues to speak out against former president Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro was one of several Democrats to pay their respect to the former vice president during a short procedural session in Congress marking the anniversary of the Capitol attack.
“I believe he cares deeply about this country,” DeLauro told BuzzFeed News. “We have different views on issues. I think that's important that he's here. I think it speaks to the strength of the institution and the strength of our democracy.”
“This isn't about partisanship,” she said. “This is about, you know, what this citadel of democracy represents, for him, for me, for Liz Cheney, for all of us here.”
Reps. Lizzie Fletcher, David Cicilline, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Eric Swalwell also spoke to Dick Cheney.
“In this fight, he’s an ally,” Swalwell said later. “And this fight, for the soul of America, is the only one that matters.”
The former vice president, member of Congress, cabinet secretary, and White House official has not exactly been beloved by Democrats over the last half-century. Throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, Cheney was portrayed by Democrats in and out of Congress as the dark force driving the president and the functional Republican power center, from the Iraq War to any number of domestic political fights. But Cheney, and his now out-of-style brand of neoconservatism, is not aligned with where the party is today.
The current Republican Party leadership, he told reporters Thursday, is “not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.”
The House of Representatives did not have scheduled votes Thursday, and many members have stayed out of DC this week. Some House Democrats served food to US Capitol Police officers and campus staff to thank them for their actions one year ago. But Republicans in particular were not eager to be at the Capitol for the first anniversary of the insurrection, where they inevitably would have had to face renewed questions about the actions party leaders took and conspiracies Trump hawked that inspired hundreds to riot.
Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz are scheduled to hold a public response to the anniversary, after Trump canceled a press conference with the same agenda. Like other House Republicans, Greene and Gaetz skipped the ceremonial events Democrats held. They instead appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room.
“We’re ashamed of nothing. We’re proud of the work we did on Jan. 6 and we’re actually going to walk the grounds that patriotic Americans walked from the White House to the Capitol,” Gaetz said on the program. The two promised to make the same “legitimate arguments about election integrity” at Thursday’s press conference.
Cheney was not the only Democratic villain of the early 2000s to make an unusual reappearance for the insurrection anniversary. Karl Rove, for years Bush’s top political adviser, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed condemning the riot “apologists” in the Republican Party for not being honest about what happened on Jan. 6. “If Democrats had done what some Trump supporters did on that violent Jan. 6, Republicans would have criticized them mercilessly and been right to do so,” he wrote.
Republicans, instead, have been most merciless with Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee investigating the insurrection and a prime political target of Trump’s in this year’s elections. Cheney was removed from a Republican leadership position last year after voting for Trump’s impeachment.
“My daughter can take care of herself,” the former vice president told reporters.