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Elise Stefanik ascends to House GOP No. 3 after Cheney ouster

Secret-ballot vote of 134-46 vaults Trump defender into leadership

House Republicans elected Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to the No. 3 role in the GOP Conference, filling the post Wyoming’s Liz Cheney was purged from earlier this week.

Stefanik won the leadership role Friday morning in a secret-ballot vote of 134-46.

The vote came two days after Republicans voted to remove Cheney from the job, after she lost support for her criticism of former President Donald Trump.

[House Republicans oust Liz Cheney from No. 3 leadership post]

Stefanik appeared alongside the GOP leadership team after the vote. She thanked her constituents and Trump, calling him “a critical part of this Republican team.”

“We’re going to fight for them each and every day against the disruptive radical far left socialist agenda of President Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi,” Stefanik told reporters just after the vote.

She said that there is room in the GOP for Trump critics like Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, but said the “vast majority” of the conference “look forward to working with President Trump.”

Stefanik defeated Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the  Freedom Caucus, who raised concerns about Stefanik’s record and the swift moves from GOP leaders to back her without much input from rank-and-file Republicans.

Roy was emphatic that even if Stefanik’s ascension seemed secure, she should at least have an opponent, which prompted him to throw his hat in the ring.

“One of my biggest problems is that we’re not taking the time to have this conversation that I think we ought to have,” he told reporters Thursday.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, departs from a House Republican Conference meeting where it was voted upon that Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., would become the new chairperson, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from the GOP leadership for her criticism of former President Donald Trump, in Washington on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Roy also took issue with the timing of the vote to replace Cheney and was among a cohort of conservatives who asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to delay the vote, to no avail.

“You know, you should do this stuff, in my opinion, on a Tuesday or Wednesday, like we normally have our votes,” Roy said. “This is purposeful, trying to sort of jam stuff through.”

Roy was nominated by Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck, who described Stefanik as “a liberal” on Wednesday and vowed to vote against her.

Stefanik has gone from being an acolyte of former Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who avoided discussing Trump, to being a Trump defender who is in lockstep with the former president. Although her votes have frequently strayed from the GOP line, her defense of Trump during his impeachment trials put her in good graces with him.

[The evolution of Elise Stefanik]

McCarthy congratulated Stefanik and thanked Roy after the vote. “We had a healthy debate and a good election,” said McCarthy.

Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the GOP Conference vice chair, framed Stefanik’s victory as a key part of the GOP effort to secure a majority in the House in the midterm elections. “We are unified. There is a great feeling coming out of that auditorium today, and we are ready to face this challenge, to present this vision to get our message to the American people and to take back the house in 2022,” he said.

Earlier this week, Stefanik said she has support from the majority of the Republican Conference even in the face of a challenger.

“We have great support conference-wide from members of the Freedom Caucus to [Republican] Study Committee to Tuesday Group,” Stefanik said.

Her bid was backed by McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Trump and House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. New York Republican John Katko, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, nominated Stefanik.

Mike Kelly, R-Pa., seconded Stefanik’s nomination.

He said his second “was based on Elise and her being a strong candidate for her being the voice I think we need to have right now in the party in that position because that is a messaging position.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., center, fist bumps Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., as they arrive for the House Republican’ caucus meeting to elect a new conference chair in the Capitol on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Stefanik joined 138 House Republicans in voting to object to the 2020 Electoral College tallies in Pennsylvania. She promulgated false claims that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate after insurrectionists tore through the Capitol on Jan. 6, and she continues to sow doubt about the results in some states.

Buck argued in his nominating speech that Roy is more conservative and in step with the Republican Conference than Stefanik is.

Roy’s candidacy was not a serious impediment to Stefanik’s path to victory, however. “Chip was offering people an alternative. I don’t think anybody expected Chip to win,” Buck said.

Chris Cioffi contributed to this report.

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