Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) huddled with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to lay out her case on why she believes she should succeed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House Republican Conference chair amid concerns her record is too moderate to succeed in the leadership role.
Stefanik’s push for support from the far-right faction of the conference came the same day that Cheney — one of Trump’s most vocal critics who previously served as the No. 3 Republican in the House — was ousted from her leadership position.
While conservatives are skeptical of the New York Republican, Stefanik sought to ease their concerns, vowing to put forward a unifying message if she succeeds in being elected to the role.
“My message was I’m focused on unifying the conference and beating Democrats and we have an opportunity to do that that’s historic as we’ve seen the most radical socialist agenda from President Biden and Speaker Pelosi,” she told reporters exiting the meeting, opting not to respond when asked if she had their support.
Shortly after the siege on Cheney, Stefanik began efforts to lock down support to climb in the ranks, locking down key endorsements from Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — one of her strongest allies in the House — and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
But conservatives have voiced reservations about the New York Republican — who previously served as the chair of the moderate Tuesday Group before seeing a rapid rise in her profile while serving as one of former President Trump’s most vocal defenders during the first impeachment trial — with some making to clear they are looking for as challenger to emerge in the race, with Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who hasn’t ruled out a bid taking aim at her centrist votes in the past.
“With all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats,” he wrote.
Conservative lawmakers and outside advocacy groups including Club for Growth have been lobbying against Stefanik for the leadership position, with critics citing that her voting record being to the left of Cheney’s, citing Heritage Action group scoring Stefanik at 56 percent to Cheney’s 91 percent; American Conservative Union scoring Cheney at 78 percent to Stefanik’s 44 percent; and FreedomWorks scoring Stefanik at 37 percent to Cheney’s 56 percent.
Two senior GOP sources said that an official from a leading advocacy group coming out against Stefanik directly spoke with President Trump about their concerns on Tuesday. But Trump adviser Jason Miller affirmed that Trump stands by his endorsement as the conference gears up to replace Cheney on Friday.
Despite Trump’s endorsement some lawmakers said they left the meeting impressed by her pitch but remained unsold.
“I think Elise is a good spokesperson. I think she knows how to message and I thought she did a good job in that regard. Now whether it was persuasive, I can’t speak for all the others, but I haven’t made up my mind,” one conservative member said.
“We’re gonna say there might be some other people that jump into this race, and depending on the other candidates and how that works out, we’ll just see how the candidates stand,” Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) told reporters.
“… I think that most of the members of the Freedom Caucus are concerned about the voting record.”
Stefanik critics said they would like to see more time between Cheney’s ouster and the selection of her successor, with a number of lawmakers airing grievances about the process and calling for a delay in the vote, which is scheduled for Friday morning.
And several Republicans said they are frustrated with McCarthy, arguing they feel boxed in by his decision to throw his support behind Stefanik so quickly, telling The Post they felt “boxed in.”
“There’s a number of Republican members of Congress who believe that Kevin McCarthy fumbled with Liz Cheney the first time, and then fumbled again because it was a quid pro quo for get rid of, Liz, or my pick Elise, and that it was far too orchestrated,” one senior Republican said.
“He feels like he’s got an ally in Elise Stefanik and that’s the primary reason why — there are other top females who are aligned with other leadership people.”
But despite some grievances, Stefanik appears to be on track to lock down more than half of the members in the conference needed to prevail in the race despite talk of a challenger launching a bid.
Stefanik said on Tuesday she has “broad support” from multiple factions within the party.