Politics & Policy

House GOP Votes Stefanik into Cheney’s Former Leadership Role

Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 13, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

House Republicans on Friday voted to appoint Representative Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) to the role of House Republican Conference Chair after ousting Representative Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) from the post earlier this week.

Republicans voted to remove Cheney from the No. 3 leadership spot on Wednesday after she continually criticized former President Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. GOP leaders said her rebuke of Trump served as a distraction from the party’s efforts to focus on moving forward and winning back the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Stefanik, a vocal supporter of Trump, defeated Representative Chip Roy (R., Texas) in a 134-46 vote to assume the role of conference chair.

Stefanik had received the endorsement of Trump, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) 

Trump on Thursday criticized Roy and reaffirmed his support for Stefanik.

“Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!” he said.

Roy joined the race on Thursday, one day after Stefanik said she “absolutely” had enough votes to secure the post, even if she faced a last-minute challenger. 

Stefanik met with the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday and said afterward that she had a “great conservation” with the group.

“My message was I’m focused on unifying the conference and beating Democrats and we have an opportunity to do that, that is historic in beating the most radical socialist agenda in this country,” Stefanik said after the meeting.

However, Cheney voted in line with Trump’s position during his tenure more often than Stefanik did, according to FiveThirtyEight. While Stefanik voted with Trump 77.7 percent of the time, Cheney did so 92.9 percent of the time.

In 2019, Stefanik was one of just eight Republicans to support the Equality Act, sweeping legislation that would add sexual orientation and transgender status as protected classes under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

During Trump’s 2016 campaign and his first days in office, Stefanik was critical of Trump on a host of issues, including his comments about Muslims and women and a number of his policy positions, such as overhauling NATO, building a U.S.-Mexico border wall and having stronger cooperation with Russia.

Stefanik, however, was lauded as a “new Republican star” by Trump after she came to his defense in 2019 during his first impeachment trial.

In 2020, she objected to the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win.

Asked whether he has concerns about elevating Stefanik to a leadership position given her past claims about the election, McCarthy said he believes “that is all over with.”

“First of all the conference will decide,” McCarthy said. “But I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We’re sitting here with the president today. So from that point of view, I don’t think that’s a problem.”

Yet last week a spokesperson for Stefanik told the Washington Post that there are still “serious concerns about the election that have not been addressed” after the congresswoman had recently backed baseless claims of voter fraud in Arizona.

Trump has continued to question the election results as well. He claimed earlier this week that votes in Michigan had been “intentionally switched from President Trump to Joe Biden.”

Stefanik’s support for Trump has received a mixed reaction from constituents in New York’s 21st congressional district, which she represents. The district voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

The New York Republican has reportedly told some colleagues that she only plans to remain in her leadership post through 2022, as she hopes to pursue the top GOP job on the House Education and Labor Committee next Congress, according to CNN.

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