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Rep. Stefanik emerges in Republican power struggle

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 1:55 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A congresswoman from New York’s North Country is at the center of a major shakeup in the Republican power structure on Capitol Hill. It’s another sign of the evolution of the party and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Later this week, House Republicans are expected to boot Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) out of party leadership. She survived a vote of no confidence in February shortly after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

But, as Trump keeps repeating unfounded election fraud claims, Cheney has continued to criticize the former President. And that, will likely cost her the conference chairmanship in this week’s vote.

New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik, now in her 4th term and Trump’s pick for the job, is expected to takeover.

Despite keeping Trump at arm’s length during his 2016 run, the 36-year old – who once worked for President George W. Bush, vocally defended Trump through two impeachments. She also voted against certifying the electoral college votes of four states, backing the president without fully getting behind his claims of a stolen election, telling us at the time she had constitutional concerns.

“I did not use the word fraud,” she emphasized at multiple points in the interview. She did insinuate it though In a January 6th press release, referencing a false claim that 140,000 ballots in Fulton County, Ga., where a total of 525,000 people voted, were cast by illegitimate voters.

Over her six years in office, Stefanik has not voted in line with conservatives as frequently as Cheney but data do suggest she has moved to the right since arriving in Congress. So has her district, switching allegiances from President Obama’s Democratic Party to Trump’s GOP.

Georgetown Political Science Professor Mark Rom said, nationally, close ties to Trump are more important than party purity for Republicans.

Rom expects Stefanik to downplay their policy differences -- like her vote against his signature 2017 tax reform legislation -- and lean into the former President’s talking points, as she steers the House GOP agenda and efforts to take back control of the chamber in 2022.

“Politicians are extremely skilled at survival,” Rom said, “Rep. Stefanik has made the choice, she’s going to follow Trump, and she’s going to take that where it leads her.”

It’s unclear whether constituents back home will directly benefit should Stefanik become the 3rd most powerful House Republican. But, it will certainly further elevate Stefanik’s national profile.

Several media outlets, relying on unnamed sources, are reporting that Stefanik only intends to spend this term in the role, and intends to take over as the top Republican on the House committee dedicated to issues surrounding education.

Despite our repeated interview requests, Stefanik did not make time for an interview this week or last.

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