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House Republicans elect Trump-backed Stefanik to leadership role

U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) speaks with the media after the Republican caucus meeting, in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2021.
REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives elected Donald Trump’s candidate Elise Stefanik to their leadership, succeeding Liz Cheney, who they ousted earlier this week for criticizing the former president’s continued false claims of election fraud.

Stefanik, a 36-year-old New York state congresswoman, rose to prominence with her fierce defense of Trump at his first impeachment trial, while Cheney angered her Republican colleagues by rejecting what she called Trump’s “big lie” about his November loss to Democratic President Joe Biden.

The closed-door vote boosted Trump’s dominance over the party even after the party lost its majorities in the House and Senate, as well as the White House during his time in office. Trump is positioning himself to play a major role in next year’s congressional elections as he also flirts with a 2024 White House run.

“He is a critical part of our Republican team,” Stefanik said. “I believe that voters choose the leader of the Republican Party and President Trump is the leader that they look to.”

Stefanik defeated Representative Chip Roy, who entered the race to serve as chair of the House Republican Conference on Thursday night.

Cheney has vowed to continue to fight to prevent Trump from winning the White House again in 2024.

Stefanik was a fierce defender of Trump during his two House impeachment ordeals. Despite her somewhat moderate voting record she defeated the rock-solid conservative Roy.

Following the closed-door vote, Trump issued a statement saying, “Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory! The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!”

In celebrating Stefanik’s victory, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to put the bruising leadership battle behind Republicans.

During remarks to reporters with Stefanik at his side, McCarthy launched an attack on Biden, blaming him for an immigration “crisis” at the southern border, gasoline shortages on the East Coast due a cyber-attack on a major pipeline, and unrest in Israel.

Now free of her job as head of the Republican conference, Cheney, a lawmaker with impeccable conservative credentials and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, vows to steer the party away from a man she says is “pushing the lie” that his defeat in the 2020 election was the result of massive voter fraud.

Trump’s claim was rejected by multiple courts, state election officials and his own administration. Cheney calls him “an ongoing threat” to U.S. democracy.

House Republican leaders, along with many in their rank and file, pushed Cheney out on Wednesday because they had concluded her battle with Trump was distracting from attacks on Democratic President Joe Biden and threatening their prospects in the 2022 congressional elections.

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