No. 2 House Republican Supports Ousting Cheney From GOP Leadership
Steve Scalise, the second-ranking House Republican, is publicly backing Rep. Liz Cheney's removal from GOP leadership, adding to the growing momentum to remove the Wyoming Republican after months of backlash over her continued criticism of former President Trump's efforts to undermine the 2020 election and his role in inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
In a statement given to NPR, Scalise calls for New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, to replace Cheney as House Republican Conference Chair.
"House Republicans need to be solely focused on taking back the House in 2022 and fighting against Speaker Pelosi and President Biden's radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair," said Scalise's communications director, Lauren Fine.
Trump also endorsed Stefanik. "We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First," Trump said in a statement Wednesday. "Elise 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!"
The House is currently on recess and so any official vote to remove Cheney from her leadership role, or elect Stefanik, would happen next week at the earliest.
On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox & Friends he's had members share concerns with him over Cheney's ability to carry out GOP messaging and pushed back that the fallout against the Wyoming lawmaker stems from her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
"I haven't heard members concerned about her vote on impeachment, it's more concerned about the job ability to do and what's our best step forward, that we can all work together instead of attacking one another," he said.
But as Axios reported following the interview, McCarthy put it more bluntly in a moment captured on a hot mic.
"I've had it with her. I've lost confidence," he said.
Tensions between McCarthy and Cheney have been simmering for months, as Cheney refuses to let up on rebuking Trump for undermining the 2020 election and inciting the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
But many Republicans see her fierce criticism of the former president as at odds with her role of carrying out party messaging, especially as leaders like McCarthy and Scalise are actively working with Trump for his campaign support in the next midterm elections.
Scalise previously told Axios that Cheney's views on Trump are out of step with most Republicans.
"This idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are, and frankly he has a lot to offer still and has offered a lot. He wants to help us win the House back," he said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that Cheney's "greatest offense apparently is she is principled and she believes in the truth."
"If you're not 1,000% for Donald Trump, somehow you're not a good Republican, you're not worthy of being in the leadership," Hoyer told The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty on Post Live.
"I think it's a real weakness in the Republican party that they have. jettison their principles, jettison adherence to the truth, and simply pandered to one individual: Donald Trump."
Stefanik, 36, was first elected to the House in 2014. At the time, she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. A Harvard graduate who worked in the George W. Bush White House, Stefanik's political alliances have shifted from being closely aligned to the establishment wing of the GOP — she was a close political ally and one time adviser to former Speaker Paul Ryan — to a vocal Trump loyalist who earned attention and praise from the former president for her role in defending him during his first impeachment trial.
Stefanik has worked for years to recruit and support more Republican women to run for Congress, a constituency in which she now enjoys a strong level of support. She has not faced a serious challenge for her upstate New York House seat since she won in 2014 and as the area has trended towards Republicans.
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