House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has cemented his reputation for spinelessness. Appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, he insisted Republican members were not seeking to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) over her vote to impeach the disgraced former president and her criticism of his role in instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. They were just concerned, he said, “about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message.” But McCarthy wasn’t being candid. A hot mic from before the interview captured his true feelings. Axios reports on the tape: “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. … Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”

In a sense, McCarthy was being honest about Cheney’s failure to “carry out the message” — given that she has refused to lie about Jan. 6 and the 2020 election. If the GOP’s “message” is that President Biden really did not win, then she certainly is failing. No truth-teller these days can stay on message for the GOP.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) grasped this unpleasant reality, tweeting:

But let’s get real. Romney’s own state Republican Party tried to censure him for following his conscience. McCarthy lets us know he, too, wants to punish Cheney for not going along with the Big Lie that the election was stolen. That is the GOP.

If the House GOP does boot her out of leadership, Romney will need to make a decision. He can stay in a party that still goes to the instigator-in-chief on bended knee and insists that the few Republicans with scruples capitulate to the MAGA mob. Alternatively, he can say: “This is not my party. I will not countenance a party that refuses to hold the former president responsible for the greatest betrayal in presidential history.”

In other words, on the basis of his conscience, he can resign from the GOP and maintain his seat as an independent. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine both caucus with Democrats but identify themselves as independents. Romney surely can do the same.

It has not gone unnoticed that former House speaker Paul Ryan, who had an off-the-record interview with Cheney on Monday in which she reportedly stuck to her guns on the Jan. 6 insurrection, remains mute. Worse, he remains on the board of Fox News’s parent company, Fox Corp., even though the network is one of the principal promulgators of the Big Lie. (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) The refusal to speak truthfully by Republicans like him — even though he knows the party has become a cult — arguably poses a bigger problem than the zombie right-wing news consumers who have actually come to believe the MAGA hogwash.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday reacted to news that the GOP was trying to replace Cheney with another woman, as if to avoid accusations that they cannot abide by a tough-minded woman. She taunted the GOP by releasing a mock job posting:

Seeking Replacement for House Republican Conference Chair
Word is out that House GOP Leaders are looking to push Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as House Republican Conference Chair – their most senior woman in GOP leadership – for a litany of very Republican reasons: she won’t lie, she isn’t humble enough, she’s like a girlfriend rooting for the wrong team, and more.
So what exactly are House GOP Leaders looking for in a #3? … they want a woman who isn’t a “threat” to them.

One can imagine that many of the MAGA-compliant female members — such as Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who willingly fanned Russian propaganda during the first impeachment of the former president; conspiracy theorist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; or Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado — would eagerly embrace the role. That, of course, would leave new Republican members who ran in swing districts (e.g., Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim of California) struggling to explain how they can tolerate a party that is so inhospitable to courageous women.

In any event, decision time for Republicans such as Cheney and Romney is fast approaching. They can be card-carrying members of the MAGA party, or they can be honest, pro-democratic patriots. The two will soon be mutually exclusive.

Read more: