Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is expected to succeed Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican, has told some of her colleagues that she only intends to remain in leadership and as chair of the House GOP Conference until 2022, in order to seek the top GOP position on the House Education and Labor Committee the following Congress, according to a source with direct knowledge of the discussions.
Though she’s generally seen as a virtual lock for the No. 3 job when the vote happens as soon as Wednesday, that assurance could help assuage fears on the right about her more moderate voting record.
If Stefanik follows through on her promise, which was first stated by Politico, there will be an open seat and an all-out race for the third-ranking slot, which will be the majority whip position if Republicans retake the House in the midterm elections next year.
This week, the New York congresswoman has been busy securing support for the seat, moving quickly to clear the field. However, some conservatives in the House and elsewhere in Washington continue to be concerned. Her voting record, according to outside groups, is much less conservative than Cheney’s. Stefanik’s inconsistent position on a wide variety of topics, including immigration and LGBTQ rights, has been criticized by the House Freedom Caucus, for example. According to a source familiar with the plans, she will address lawmakers in the caucus on Monday.
And those who doubt Stefanik’s conservative credentials claim she’s better than Cheney on the most critical criterion: her allegiance to former President Donald Trump. While the Wyoming Republican, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was a staunch supporter of Trump’s policy in Congress for the majority of his presidency, her vote in favor of his second impeachment is the only one that counts for her leadership role.
Cheney’s impeachment vote and her consistent defense of it have angered the former President, despite her ability to withstand an effort to oust her as conference chair in February. And her insistence that the party move on from Trump and correct his lies about the 2020 election has undermined her position among members who openly support Trump.
Stefanik, on the other hand, seems to be immune to criticism from the conservative activist wing of the party because of her vocal support for Trump and his attempt to say the election was unconstitutional.
Provided Trump’s, House leadership’s, and a broad cross-section of the conference’s support, Stefanik is widely expected to win a secret ballot election next week. So far, no one has stepped forward to question her.
Even moderate Republican Rep. John Katko, who voted to impeach Trump and was a Cheney supporter, told a local newspaper that he would support his fellow New Yorker for the position, signaling that Cheney’s time in the White House is drawing to a close.
“I have every confidence that Elise will be a superb leader for all of our conference, not just some,” Katko told The Auburn Citizen Friday. “Elise and I came in together and she knows me as well as she knows conservatives. She knows that I have a different type of district than a lot of conservatives.”