WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senator Susan Collins, a leading moderate Republican in the U.S. Congress, warned on Sunday against intolerance of differences within her party and pushed back at intraparty attacks from the right against Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Liz Cheney.
Collins, who won re-election in Maine last year despite a strong Democratic bid to oust her, said she was dismayed that Romney had been booed by fellow Republicans in his home state of Utah, and defended Cheney, who like Romney has been attacked from within the party for criticizing former President Donald Trump.
“We need to have room for a variety of views,” Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We are not a party that is led by just one person.”
“I was appalled,” Collins added, that Romney was booed on Saturday at the Utah Republicans’ state organizing convention.
“Mitt Romney is an outstanding senator who served his state and our country well,” Collins said.
Republicans at the convention narrowly rejected a motion to censure Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, for voting to convict Trump at the former president’s two impeachment trials, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The newspaper reported that Romney told the crowd, “I’m a man who says what he means, and you know I was not a fan of our last president’s character issues.”
Collins also praised Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump this year on a charge of incitement of insurrection for a speech he gave before a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Liz Cheney is a woman of strength and conscience, and she did what she thought was right, and I salute her for that,” Collins said.
Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, survived a February attempt to oust her from the House leadership.
In recent days, she has faced renewed pressure from conservatives in her party after she gave Democratic President Joe Biden a fist bump in the House chamber, where he gave a speech to Congress.
Representative Lance Gooden, a conservative Texas Republican, predicted on Saturday that Cheney would be out of her House leadership role by the end of May.
The Senate’s third-ranking Republican, John Barrasso, also from Cheney’s home state of Wyoming, told ABC’s “This Week” program that Republicans “need to get beyond all this and focus on the 2022 elections,” when asked about pressure to oust Cheney.
Collins and Romney were among seven Senate Republicans who voted in February to convict Trump at his second impeachment trial. A year earlier, Romney was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump on a charge of abuse of power related to the former president’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden. The Senate acquitted Trump in both trials.