President Trump has now endorsed NY Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as Chair of the GOP Caucus in the House.
Former President Trump officially endorses Rep. Elise Stefanik for GOP Conference Chair: pic.twitter.com/zfRIB7qvhc
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) May 5, 2021
Earlier today we reported here that the House GOP Leadership — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise — had given their endorsement to Rep. Stefanik’s move.
The approval from leadership had become a foregone conclusion once word leaked out yesterday that Rep. Stefanik was making calls to other members of the caucus seeking their support for her move against Cheney.
Rep. Stefanik, a Harvard graduate, worked in the office of White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton during the Bush 43 Administration before moving back to upstate New York where she eventually ran for Congress.
She is far from a conservative — in fact, her voting record is far less conservative than the voting record of Cheney.
She generally supported the policies of the Trump Administration, but she did vote against the 2017 tax relief bill – as did many New York Republicans — because of the limits on the deductibility of state and local taxes. She also opposed the Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. She was one of only a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of the Equality Act, and she introduced legislation that would have created federal statutory protections for transgender individuals. She is also to the left of the GOP caucus on immigration issues.
But, Stefanik is a female alternative to keeping Liz Cheney in the leadership no matter what her politics might be, and that was an important consideration. The optics would have looked terrible — and would have been magnified by the press — if the Caucus voted to remove Cheney and replaced her with a man. That was a big part of the reason why Cheney previously survived a vote in the Caucus to remove her — uncertainty over who would step into the position.
Rep. Stefanik has not served in any capacity in the House Leadership in the past as she opted to pursue committee memberships instead. Generally, the two paths are mutually exclusive — a new member either targets a particular committee important to his or her constituents and seeks to advance in seniority on that committee, or a new member looks for a spot in the lower positions of House leadership on either the majority or minority side. Stefanik has served on the Armed Services Committee, Education and Workforce Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Moving to a leadership position imposes different responsibilities than her committee assignments. But it would put her third-in-line to be Speaker someday if she remains in the House and the GOP regains the majority.
The House leadership understands that Cheney’s continued expressions of animosity towards Pres. Trump and the Jan. 6 protests would take the focus off the efforts by the GOP House members to fight against the policies of the Biden Administration. Cheney’s statements continued to give oxygen to the media’s narrative, and the leadership needs the focus to be on November 2022 and winning back the House majority.
This has been a two-way battle between Cheney — supported by both Democrats and the Never Trumper wing of the GOP — and Pres. Trump. McCarthy has no ability to curtail the activity on President Trump’s end of the dispute, but he has cards to play with respect to Cheney and the House Leadership.
McCarthy wants to be the next Speaker of the House, and Scalise wants to be Majority Leader. McCarthy has no chance — even if the GOP takes back the majority in 2022 — if Trump opposes him, so Cheney made herself a liability to his ambitions such that he was no longer willing to defend her.
McCarthy knows too that Cheney now has no hope of winning reelection in Wyoming. She will almost certainly lose in the GOP primary next year given the polling among Republicans in what is probably the most conservative state in the United States. Cheney has always been an “outsider” in Wyoming, having grown up, attended school, worked, and raised her family in Northern Virginia. She and her husband bought a home in Wyoming simply so she could give the appearance of being a Wyoming resident when she ran for her father’s old seat.
Pres. Trump has now claimed the scalp of maybe the most high-profile Never-Trumper in the GOP — sending a message to anyone else who might be thinking about taking public positions in opposition to him in the months and years ahead.
McCarthy and Scalise can now move on with their efforts to win back a majority of seats in the House.