Some Republicans criticize the censure of Sen. Cassidy; state GOP chairman denies there is a rift

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 7:15 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The executive committee of the Louisiana Republican Party wasted no time in voting to censure Sen. Bill Cassidy over his vote to convict former President Donald Trump on charges he incited insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, but some Republicans disagree with the move and that has ignited debate.

Cassidy defends his vote.

“Our Constitution and our country is more important than any one person. I voted to convict President Trump because he is guilty,” said Cassidy.

Jim Farwell is a longtime GOP strategist who was asked about the censure and talk of a rift in the party by some.

“I don’t think it’s a long-lasting rift. I think there’s a lot of debate, there’s certainly a lot of emotion but I don’t think fundamentally that there is that rift because ultimately Republicans have different views in government than Democrats do,” said Farwell.

In an op-ed that appeared in the New Orleans Advocate, Quin Hillyer, a senior commentary writer for the Washington Examiner and a former leader of the Louisiana Young Republicans criticized the La. GOP over its censure of Cassidy.

Later Hillyer spoke to FOX 8 News about his views.

“The biggest message is that it is absurd to formally censure your own U.S. senator for a vote of conscience. That is not the party that I grew up in, that is not the Republican Party that my father built and it’s also not a good, wise, or decent thing to do,” said Hillyer.

He was asked why he felt strongly about putting his thoughts in writing for all to see.

“Well, it is incredibly frustrating to me to see both sides of politics these days act as if no dissent is allowed; to act as if anybody that strays on any subject immediately is to be shouted down, or canceled or in this case censured,” said Hillyer. “If we start making every single vote a litmus test, ‘A’ we’re not going to get anywhere practically, but ‘B’ we’re going down the line of extremists’ societies where you have purge, after purge, after purge and not only does nothing get done but it becomes very dangerous and becomes very unstable.”

Hillyer also thinks the censure could hurt the Louisiana GOP with Republicans who are not hardliners.

“I think it absolutely will turn off moderate Republicans and I say this to be clear as a solid lifelong conservative who still does not stray from my belief that conservative policies tend to help more people in more ways,” he said.

Dr. Robert Collins is a Dillard University political analyst who also spent years on Capitol Hill working in the U.S. Senate.

“What you’re seeing right now both nationally and locally here in Louisiana are schisms or divisions within the Republican Party, basically it’s dividing into pro-Trump and anti-Trump lines,” said Collins. “So, right now the pro-Trump forces are obviously bigger because the polling indicates that former President Donald Trump’s numbers are actually still pretty good among Republicans.

Louisiana GOP Chair Louis Gurvich does not think there is a rift.

He told FOX 8, “The party is in excellent shape and it continues to grow strongly, and we win far more races than we lose. I have observed no major rifts within the party, our pro-growth policies are right for the country.

And Gurvich says he sees no signs of rifts between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces in the party.

Collins nor Farwell expects Cassidy to endure long-term consequences for voting his conscience.

“It’s highly unlikely they’re going to punish him six years from now for something he did this year, simply because there will be a whole new set of issues six years from now. In politics, six years is an eternity,” Collins stated.

Cassidy was reelected in November to a new term in office.

“Bill Cassidy is a very effective U.S. Senator, he’s a strong voice in the U.S. Senate for Louisiana and I believe that, that will continue,” said Farwell.

GOP House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana visited Trump in Florida this week.

A spokesperson said via email, “Rep. Scalise is in Florida this week on political travel and had meetings at Mar a Lago on Tuesday and touched base with President Trump while he was there.”

Collins said Scalise’s visit is no surprise in terms of party politics.

“As a part of the leadership he’s trying to show a united front that they’re going to stay with the pro-Trump forces because right now within the House Republican Caucus the pro-Trump forces greatly outnumber the anti-Trump forces,” said Collins.

Hillyer was asked where he thinks his party goes from here.

“I wish I knew where the Republican Party goes from here. The Republican Party needs to go to a place where it yes, stands for conservative or center-right principles but that it does so in an inclusive way that attracts more people and serves more people. Not one that becomes like a little mini-Politburo,” said Hillyer.

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