House GOP elects Trump defender Elise Stefanik to No. 3 post

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House Republicans on Friday picked Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as the third most powerful Republican in the House.

Ms. Cheney was ousted as House GOP conference chair after she refused to back off her criticism of former President Donald Trump and his stolen election claims.

Ms. Stefanik won on a 134-46 vote, overcoming a last-minute challenge from Rep. Chip Roy of Texas who argued the 36-year-old New York Republican was not conservative enough.

“Thank you to my colleagues for electing me to serve as House Republican Conference Chair and to my constituents across #NY21 for their outpouring of support!” Ms. Stefanik said on Twitter after the vote.

“I am excited to lead our unified team alongside @GOPLeader & @SteveScalise to combat Biden and Pelosi’s Far-Left agenda!” she said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise backed Ms. Stefanik.

Mr. McCarthy said GOP leaders are focused on pushing back against the policies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden that are “destroying this nation.”

Our conference is incredibly unified right now but we’re also very concerned because America is experiencing numerous crises, all across the board,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters after the vote. “You’re seeing President Biden fail to lead this nation through some unprecedented serious problems that are affecting everyday, hardworking families.”

The biggest blessing arguably came from Mr. Trump, who helped shield Ms. Stefanik from her doubters in the conference.

Mr. Trump celebrated the outcome.

“Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory!” he said in a statement released minutes after the vote. “The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!”

Mr. Roy, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, jumped into the contest Thursday after airing concerns about Ms. Stefanik’s voting record — including her opposition to the 2017 tax cuts — and the rush to coronate her.

Mr. Roy warned his colleagues that her “voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats.” 

After the vote, he toned down his criticism.

“We’re all united, and Elise is our chair,” Mr. Roy told reporters. “Now we’re going to get busy, pointing out how the Democratic Party is destroying America.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, predicted Mr. Roy’s late-in-the-game challenge will cost him his job.

“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,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “I support Elise, by far, over Chip!”

Ms. Stefanik welcomed Mr. Trump’s backing.

“I’m proud of President Trump‘s support,” she said. “Voters look to his support. He’s an important — the most important — leader in our party for voters. And it’s going to be important that we work as a team to win the majority.”

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