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House GOP Elects Trump Defender Stefanik to No. 3 Post

May 14, 2021 by Dan McCue
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 14, 2021, just after she was elected chair of the House Republican Conference, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from the GOP leadership for criticizing former President Donald Trump. She is joined by, from left, Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Republican House members handily elected Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York, to the number three post in their conference leadership Friday, hoping her elevation will end an intra-party feud between allies of former President Donald Trump and his GOP detractors.

With little suspense, Stefanik defeated her only challenger for the position, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, 134-46 in a secret ballot conducted behind closed doors.

As their new conference chair, Stefanik gives Republicans a chance to try changing the subject from the acrimonious fight over the defiant Liz Cheney, R- Wyo., by installing a Trump loyalist — and one of the party’s relative handful of women in Congress — in a visible role.

“Voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to,” she told reporters after the vote. 

“He is an important voice in the Republican Party and we look forward to working with him,” she added.

Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, implied before the vote that he was running because he didn’t like the idea of Stefanik running for such an important position in the conference unopposed.

As he walked into the GOP meeting Friday morning, he said if he didn’t win, that would be okay, and that the conference would be united with Stefanik in the post Cheney held for two years.

Stefanik later thanked Trump, calling him “a critical part of our Republican team.”

Within minutes, Trump released a statement via email praising her.

“Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory! The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!” Trump said.

But at least some Republicans believe Stefanik will be a more moderate voice than many expect.

Among them is Rep. John Katko, one of three Republicans who nominated her for conference chair.

During a virtual roundtable last week, Katko, who frequently works across the aisle with Democrats on legislation, told reporters he was supporting Stefanik because she knows him “as well as she knows conservatives” and that she recognizes he has “a different type of district than a lot of conservatives.” 

“She knows that if we ever want to be back in control of Congress again, people like me have to win and we have to flourish and we have to have a big tent as the Republican Party,” Katko said. “She understands that. She understands that means she has to advocate for all of us.”

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