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GOP to Put Stefanik in Top House Post  05/14 06:11

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are ready to vault Rep. Elise Stefanik into 
the ranks of House leadership, with the party hoping to turn the page from its 
searing civil war over the deposed Rep. Liz Cheney and refocus on winning 
control of the chamber in next year's elections.

   Stefanik, R-N.Y., a moderate turned avid defender of former President Donald 
Trump and his unfounded claims of 2020 election fraud, was widely expected to 
be elected Friday as the No. 3 House GOP leader.

   She'd replace Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted this week for repeatedly 
rebuking Trump for encouraging supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 
and for his lie that his 2020 reelection was stolen from him by fraudulent 
voting.

   Stefanik, 36, gives Republicans a chance to try changing the subject from 
the acrimonious fight over the defiant Cheney by installing a Trump loyalist -- 
and one of the party's relative handful of women in Congress -- in a visible 
role.

   But GOP schisms are unlikely to vanish quickly. Many hard-right 
conservatives have misgivings about Stefanik's centrist voting record, and 
tensions remain raw over Trump's taut hold on the party and Cheney's rancorous 
ouster.

   "We are unified at making sure that we win the majority, and that we focus 
on the damage that the Biden-Pelosi agenda is doing across America," Stefanik 
told reporters Thursday, amplifying her argument that she'd be an aggressive 
messenger for her party. She called Trump "the most important leader in our 
party for voters" and said she was strongly positioned to win.

   Stefanik got an early start lining up votes to succeed Cheney, a decisive 
factor in leadership races. Crucially, she's also backed by Trump and House 
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., plus two of the House's most 
influential conservatives: No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana 
and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

   One of the House's most conservative members, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told 
reporters he would run against Stefanik. He's a prohibitive long shot, but his 
candidacy signals to leaders that hard-right Republicans expect a robust voice 
moving forward.

   "Always healthy to have debate," McCarthy said when asked about a potential 
Stefanik challenger. He spoke a day after he successfully helped dump Cheney 
from party leadership for refusing to stifle her differences with Trump.

   Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and an ambitious GOP 
force in her own right, was among 10 House Republicans who voted this year to 
impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. Since then, she's battled Trump 
often and many Republicans ultimately turned against her, arguing that the 
dispute was a damaging distraction.

   Even so, Cheney is not going away. She's said she'll remain in Congress, run 
for reelection and actively work to derail Trump if he seeks a White House 
return in 2024.

   Stefanik has told colleagues she'd serve in the leadership job only through 
next year, according to a GOP lawmaker and an aide who spoke on condition of 
anonymity last week to discuss internal conversations. After that, she'd take 
the top GOP spot on the House Education and Labor Committee, which some 
consider a more powerful position because it can produce legislation on 
important issues.

   Stefanik is a four-term lawmaker from an upstate New York district that in 
the past four presidential elections backed both Trump and Barack Obama twice. 
She was a Trump critic during his 2016 campaign, calling his videotaped 
comments on sexually assaulting women "just wrong" and at times avoiding 
stating his name, local news reports said.

   Her voting record is among the most moderate of all House Republicans', 
according to conservative groups' ratings. She opposed Trump's marquee 2017 tax 
cuts and his efforts to divert budget funds to build a wall along the Mexican 
border.

   She hurtled to GOP prominence -- and Trump's attention -- by defending him 
in 2019 during his first impeachment over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to 
produce political dirt on Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential contender at the 
time.

   She has remained a Trump booster and joined him in casting doubt on the 
validity of the 2020 election, despite findings by judges and local officials 
that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. Hours after the Capitol attack, 
she voted against formally approving Pennsylvania's state-certified electoral 
votes.

   Roy said Thursday on "The Mark Davis Show," a Dallas-based conservative talk 
show, that Stefanik was too moderate and should be challenged from the right. 
He also conceded there was a "big likelihood" Stefanik would win.

   Trump reiterated his support for Stefanik on Thursday and said in a 
statement that Roy "has not done a great job" and would likely lose the GOP 
primary for his seat next year.

   Roy ran afoul of Trump in January when he voted to formally certify Trump's 
Electoral College defeat, saying the Constitution left "no authority for 
Congress" to overrule states' handling of the election.

 
 
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