Why the GOP is hooked on Rep. Elise Stefanik

Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik doesn’t have a very conservative voting record, but that hasn’t stopped her from rising in GOP leadership

Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives think the future of the Grand Old Party is Trump — or least in the believers and supporters of the former president’s Make American Great Again movement.

And that belief could be shown in action this week if House Republicans oust Congresswoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from her leadership position for not supporting what they see is the future of the GOP.

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On Fox News this weekend, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he no longer supported Cheney as the House Republican’s conference chair.

“Everyone in leadership serves at the pleasure of the caucus,” McCarthy told Fox New host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday. The host then asked the congressman if he supported replacing Cheney — the daughter of former two-term Republican vice president Dick Cheney — with Rep. Elise Stafanik of New York.

“Yes I do,” McCarthy replied. The congressman, and highest ranking Republican in the House, said that the GOP caucus would be voting on whether or not to unseat Cheney from her third-ranking leadership position this week.

GOP whip and House Republican’s second highest ranking member Rep. Steve Scailse, R-La., also said last week he was going to back Stefanik as the new party conference chair, The Hill reported.

But on Monday, Stefanik received perhaps her biggest endorsement from party leadership — the praise of former President Donald Trump.

“The House GOP has a massive opportunity to upgrade this week from warmonger Liz Cheney to gifted communicator Elise Stefanik,” Trump said Monday in a post to his new communications website, From The Desk of Donald J. Trump. “We need someone in leadership who has experience flipping districts from Blue to Red as we approach the important 2022 midterms, and that’s Elise!”

McCarthy has told Republicans the vote on whether or not to remove Cheney from leadership will happen on Wednesday, CBS News reported. In February, the GOP caucus voted 145-61 in a secret ballot to keep Cheney — who’d voted to impeach the former Republican president and has been outspoken against Trump’s “Big Lie” about election fraud — in a leadership position.

It’s hard to imagine that the first- and second-ranked Republican in the House — to include the GOP’s top voting manager — would rally around Stefanik if they thought there wasn’t enough support in the party to unseat Cheney.

So what do we know about the new potential House Republican conference chair?

Who is Elise Stefanik?

Congresswoman Stefanik, 36, is a born and bred upstate New Yorker, currently serving her fourth term as representative for the state’s northernmost 21st District, according to her official congressional biography.

  • Stefanik worked in the Bush-Cheney White House as domestic policy council staff and in the White House chief of staff’s office from 2006 to 2009.
  • During Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and former Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s 2012 presidential and vice presidential campaign, Stefanik served as Ryan’s debate preparation director.
  • At the time of her first congressional election in 2014, Stefanik was the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, according to The New York Times. Fellow New York congresswoman Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez later gained this honor in 2018.
  • The congresswoman’s Aug. 19, 2017, marriage to husband Matthew Manda was announced in The New York Times.
  • Stefanik graduated from Harvard University, “becoming the first in her immediate family to earn a college degree,” according to Time Magazine.
  • “Stefanik was one of few conservative women at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, but fellow campus politicos told (Time Magazine) they admired her sharp reasoning, intellectual integrity and willingness to stick to her positions, even when they were unpopular on a liberal-leaning campus,” Time reported.

From moderate to MAGA

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“It is a partisan ploy with no basis in the Constitution,” Sefanik said in a statement after she voted against Trump’s second impeachment, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported at the time. “The Democrats’ decision to impeach the President with one week remaining in his term further fuels the divisions in the country during this very trying time.”

It was her second time she’d defended Trump against impending impeachment.

  • The Financial Times reported that the congresswoman is one of Trump’s “fiercest defenders.”
  • “In a coveted speaking spot at the 2020 Republican National Convention, she offered Trump her full-throated endorsement and described the Democrats’ impeachment probe as a ‘baseless and illegal ...  sham,’” according to the Financial Times.

But Stefanik wasn’t always a MAGA Republican and was once known as “every Democrat’s favorite Republican,” a former aid to GOP leadership told Time Magazine.

  • In 2016, ABC News reported that Stefanik “was one of a handful of prominent Republicans to skip the GOP convention in Ohio and later refused to mention former President Donald Trump’s name when asked if she would vote for him.”

And her support of former President Trump — and rise in the current Republican Party — doesn’t reflect a historically conservative voting record.

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