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As GOP moves to Trump, so does Elise Stefanik

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 8:15 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WWNY) - It’s highly likely that by later today, Elise Stefanik will have been raised into Republican Party leadership in the House of Representatives.

The north country congresswoman is at the center of a major shakeup in the Republican power structure on Capitol Hill.

As 7 News Washington correspondent Kyle Midura explains, it’s another sign of the evolution of both the party and Stefanik.

Later this week, House Republicans are expected to boot Rep. Liz Cheney out of party leadership.

She survived a vote of no confidence in February shortly after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump.

But as Trump keeps repeating unfounded election fraud claims, Cheney has continued to criticize the former President. And that will likely cost her the conference chairmanship in this week’s vote.

New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik – now in her fourth term and Trump’s pick for the job -- is expected to take over.

“I certainly don’t agree with everything some of the candidates have said,” Stefanik said in January of 2016.

Despite keeping Trump at arm’s length during his 2016 run, the 36-year old, who once worked for President George W. Bush, vocally defended Trump through two impeachments and voted against certifying the electoral college votes of four states, backing the president without fully getting behind his claims of a stolen election, telling me at the time she had constitutional concerns.

“I did not use the word fraud,” she said.

Stefanik does not vote in line with conservatives as frequently as Cheney but has moved to the right since arriving in Congress. So has her district, switching allegiances from President Obama’s Democratic Party to Trump’s GOP.

“Politicians are extremely skilled at survival,” Georgetown University political science Professor Mark Rom said.

Rom says nationally, close ties to Trump are more important than party purity for Republicans.

He expects Stefanik to downplay policy differences and lean into the former president’s talking points, as she steers the House GOP agenda and efforts to take back control of the chamber in 2022.

“Stefanik has made the choice,” Rom said. She’s going to follow Trump and she’s going to take that where it leads her.

It’s unclear whether constituents back home will directly benefit should Stefanik become the third most powerful House Republican, but it will certainly further elevate Stefanik’s national profile.

There’s long been speculation that Stefanik could be gearing up for a challenge of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but her political aspirations are somewhat unclear.

As for her immediate plans, multiple media outlets are reporting that Stefanik only intends to keep the position through December of 2022 and is hoping to become the top Republican on the House Education Committee at that point.

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