House GOP elects Trump defender Elise Stefanik to No. 3 post

Politics

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., arrives as House GOP members hold an election for a new chair of the House Republican Conference to replace Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from the GOP leadership for criticizing former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 14, 2021. Stefanik is a key Trump ally who was endorsed by Republican leaders. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans vaulted Rep. Elise Stefanik into the ranks of House leadership Friday, electing an ardent Donald Trump defender in hopes of calming their searing civil war over the deposed Rep. Liz Cheney’s unremitting combat with the former president.

Stefanik, R-N.Y., a moderate turned Trump loyalist who’s given voice to many of his false claims about election fraud, was elected as expected to the No. 3 post that Cheney, R-Wyo., held for over two years.

Backed by Trump and the House’s top two Republicans, Stefanik defeated challenger Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, by 134-46 in a secret ballot vote conducted behind closed doors. A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Roy was a prohibitive long shot whose candidacy seemed a signal to GOP leaders that hard-right Republicans expect a robust voice moving forward.

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.

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