WASHINGTON — Two days after demoting Rep. Liz Cheney, Republicans elevated Rep. Elise Stefanik to her former leadership role Friday.
What You Need To Know
- Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a moderate turned avid defender of former President Donald Trump and his unfounded claims of 2020 election fraud, was widely expected to be elected Friday as the No. 3 House GOP leader
- She'd replace Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted this week for repeatedly rebuking Trump for encouraging supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and for his lie that his 2020 reelection was stolen from him by fraudulent voting
- Many hard-right conservatives have misgivings about Stefanik's centrist voting record, and tensions remain raw over Trump's taut hold on the party and Cheney's rancorous ouster
In a closed-door meeting at the Capitol, party lawmakers elected Stefanik, R-N.Y., a moderate turned avid defender of former President Donald Trump and his unfounded claims of 2020 election fraud, as the House Republican Conference chair, the third-highest GOP position in the chamber.
Stefanik defeated Rep. Chip Roy of Texas by a vote of 134-46.
"I have prioritized listening to all members of our Republican conference, and my focus is on unity because that's what the American people and that's what our voters deserve," Stefanik said after the vote.
She then quickly turned her attention to attacking Democratic policies.
"The American people are suffering under the far-left radical, socialist policies of President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi," she said. "In just over 100 days, we have an economic crisis, we have a border crisis, and we have a national security crisis"
Republicans are hoping to turn the page from its searing civil war over the deposed Cheney, R-Wyo., and refocus on winning control of the chamber in next year’s elections. Cheney was removed from her leadership position for repeatedly rebuking Trump for encouraging supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and for his lie that his 2020 reelection was stolen from him by fraudulent voting.
Stefanik, 36, gives Republicans a chance to try changing the subject from the acrimonious fight over the defiant Cheney by installing a Trump loyalist — and one of the party's relative handful of women in Congress — in a visible role.
But GOP schisms are unlikely to vanish quickly. Many hard-right conservatives have misgivings about Stefanik's centrist voting record, and tensions remain raw over Trump's taut hold on the party and Cheney's rancorous ouster.
"This is about being unified," Stefanik said. "I'm a proud conservative Republican, and I will fight for the Republican conference."
Stefanik got an early start lining up votes to succeed Cheney, a decisive factor in leadership races. Crucially, she’s also backed by Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., plus two of the House’s most influential conservatives: No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
"Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory!" Trump wrote on his website after Friday's vote. "The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!"
Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and an ambitious GOP force in her own right, was among 10 House Republicans who voted this year to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. Since then, she's battled Trump often and many Republicans ultimately turned against her, arguing that the dispute was a damaging distraction.
Even so, Cheney is not going away. She's said she'll remain in Congress, run for reelection and actively work to derail Trump if he seeks a White House return in 2024.
Stefanik has told colleagues she'd serve in the leadership job only through next year, according to a GOP lawmaker and an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity last week to discuss internal conversations. After that, she'd take the top GOP spot on the House Education and Labor Committee, which some consider a more powerful position because it can produce legislation on important issues.
Stefanik is a four-term lawmaker from an upstate New York district that in the past four presidential elections backed both Trump and Barack Obama twice. She was a Trump critic during his 2016 campaign, calling his videotaped comments on sexually assaulting women “just wrong" and at times avoiding stating his name, local news reports said.
Her voting record is among the most moderate of all House Republicans', according to conservative groups' ratings. She opposed Trump's marquee 2017 tax cuts and his efforts to divert budget funds to build a wall along the Mexican border.
She hurtled to GOP prominence — and Trump's attention — by defending him in 2019 during his first impeachment over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to produce political dirt on Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential contender at the time.
She has remained a Trump booster and joined him in casting doubt on the validity of the 2020 election, despite findings by judges and local officials that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. Hours after the Capitol attack, she voted against formally approving Pennsylvania's state-certified electoral votes.
This article was updated with additional information.