House Republicans elected Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as their House conference chair, the third top-ranking member of the caucus. Once a fierce Trump opponent known for bipartisanship, Stefanik pivoted during Trump’s impeachment to become one of his most avid defenders and a “rising star” in the party, according to the former president.
Stefanik even earned Trump’s support for the leadership position. When Rep. Chip Roy entered the race, the former president issued a statement of support for Stefanik. “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,” Trump said. “I support Elise, by far, over Chip!”
In a statement following the vote, Stefanik promised to oppose the majority party: “House Republicans are united in our focus to fight on behalf of the American people to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda.”
Stefanik’s transformation from moderate to conservative began with Trump’s first impeachment. Before that, she was vocally critical of the president, speaking out against his offensive comments about Muslims and women and opposing some of his biggest foreign policy initiatives like the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“A lot of folks, particularly who are center-moderate thought Elise Stefanik was the poster child of a new way of looking at politics, finding that middle ground, there is a lot of surprise to see where she has gotten in a short period of time,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, told the Washington Post, adding that Stefanik’s decision was a “bet on the direction of the party.”
“She just outhustled everyone,” a senior Republican aide told CNN.
Ousted conference chair Cheney — whose lifetime voting record is more in line with Trump than Stefanik’s — is proof that Trump opponents will not last long among Republicans. After voting to impeach Trump in January, the daughter of the former vice president has become a pariah in her party. Her impeachment earned her censure from her home state’s Republican Party and ultimately led to her removal from GOP House leadership.