WASHINGTON – After holding the position as the third-ranking House Republican for nearly three years, it is becoming clearer Rep. Liz Cheney’s leadership role may be at risk as prominent Republicans line up against her for criticizing former President Donald Trump.
The person emerging as a potential replacement for the Wyoming Republican is Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who in the last years of the Trump administration emerged as a loyal and vocal defender of the 45th president.
Stefanik, 36, now has the backing of the second most powerful House Republican, Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and Trump.
Meanwhile, Cheney is under mounting criticism and scorn from Republicans over her statements regarding the former president. On Monday, she called his election fraud claim a “big lie.”
Though an attempt to remove Cheney from her leadership post failed in February after she voted to impeach Trump, her recent comments on Trump’s election fraud claims have led to a fresh wave of criticism.
More:Trump, No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise throw support behind Elise Stefanik for Liz Cheney’s leadership post
In February, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., defended the Wyoming congresswoman but now says the conference is losing confidence in her.
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority.”
Trump issued a statement Wednesday through his Save America PAC in which he slammed Cheney as a “warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership,” and threw his support behind Stefanik.
“We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First,” the former president said. He continued, “Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair. Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”
Who is the New York congresswoman? Here’s what you need to know about the Stefanik:
One of the youngest lawmakers elected
Stefanik, when she was elected in 2014 at age 30, was then the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
That title has since gone to fellow New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was elected during the 2018 midterms.
Stefanik wrote a USA TODAY op-ed in 2019 with advice for both Ocasio-Cortez and former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, the one-term Iowa Democrat who turned 30 a week before she was sworn in in 2019.
She told them to “understand that along with this record is the responsibility to encourage younger women to seek office and have the courage to step into the arena.”
More:I was the youngest woman in Congress. Here’s my advice to those who have taken my place
If Stefanik is successful in replacing Cheney, she would be the first millennial and one of the few women to hold the position.
Harvard, Bush White House, Romney campaign
Prior to being a member of Congress, Stefanik attended Harvard University before joining the George W. Bush administration as an aide.
In 2012, she advised then-vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and prepped him for his debate against then-Vice President Joe Biden before deciding to run to join the former House speaker in Congress.
Rose to Republican fame during first Trump impeachment
During Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, Stefanik was named one of the members of Trump’s impeachment defense team after her viral role in the House’s proceedings.
Their unofficial role was to do media appearances and work on messaging behind the scenes to counter the House manager’s case against the president to the public.
Trump called Stefanik a “new Republican star” as she defended him against Democrats.
The House impeached Trump, but the Senate acquitted him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his dealings with Ukraine.
Objected to electors in 2020 election
After a pro-Trump mobbed stormed the Capitol in January on the day a joint session of Congress met to count the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Trump lost to Biden, Stefanik signed objections to electors in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but only Pennsylvania was among those brought to a vote.
More:The members of Congress who objected to Joe Biden’s Electoral College win amid Capitol riot
“Tens of millions of Americans are concerned that the 2020 election featured unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws,” Stefanik said on the House floor.
Cheney disapproved of objecting to the election results, and said it “set exceptionally dangerous precedent.”
Ranks as one of the most bipartisan and didn’t always vocally support Trump
Despite her vocal support for Trump, Stefanik consistently ranks as one of the most bipartisan lawmakers, is more moderate when it comes to legislation, and wasn’t always as outspoken in her support for the 45th president.
For the 116th Congress, which ran from 2019 to 2020, according to the Bipartisan Index from the nonpartisan public policy think tank The Lugar Center, Stefanik was ranked as the 13th most bipartisan member of Congress.
The year prior, she landed at number 14.
Policy-wise, Stefanik is more moderate than some of her GOP House colleagues and voted with Trump less than Cheney did.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted with Trump 92.9% of the time, while Stefanik voted with him 77.7% of the time.
For example, Stefanik opposed Trump’s 2017 tax cut and has supported giving legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
In 2016, she kept her distance from then-candidate Trump, saying she endorsed the Republican “party’s nominee” without mentioning Trump’s name.
She went from not attending the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland to speaking at the party’s 2020 virtual convention.
During her speech this past summer, she railed against Democrats in her support for Trump, saying the “American people were not swayed by these partisan attacks. Our support for President Trump is stronger than ever before.”