By Mukwuzi Joseph
House Republicans formally selected New York Representative Elise Stefanik, a staunch defender of Donald Trump, as their No. 3 leader Friday to replace Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, amid a battle within the party over the former president’s role in shaping its future.
Stefanik, 36, was selected on a 134-46 vote at a closed-door meeting of GOP House members after a last-minute challenge from Texas’s Chip Roy, who represented a faction of Republicans who regarded Stefanik as not conservative enough to be the conference chair.
She joined House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and other top officials after the vote to deliver a message that the party was unified in the goals of opposing President Joe Biden’s agenda and retaking the House majority in the 2022 election.
“My focus is on unity, because that’s what the American people and that’s what our voters deserve,” Stefanik said. “I also want to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican team.”
Trump loomed large in the ouster of Cheney and the selection of her replacement. He released a series of statements harshly critical of the Wyoming Republican and praising Stefanik, who was first elected to the House in 2014 as a moderate and emerged as one of former president’s most prominent defenders during his first impeachment.
“I also want to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican team,” Stefanik said, adding that voters determine who leads the party and “President Trump is the leader they look to.”
Her selection caps a week in which Cheney, who has been a harsh critic of Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election, was dumped from the third-ranked House GOP leadership job by her colleagues in a voice vote on Wednesday — sending a stark warning to other potential Trump antagonists.