House GOP elects Elise Stefanik to No. 3 post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, walks with Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., to talk with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 14, 2021, just after she was elected the new chair of the House Republican Conference, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was ousted from the GOP leadership. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans vaulted Rep. Elise Stefanik into the ranks of House leadership Friday. Stefanik, R-N.Y., 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 defiant Cheney.

“Voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to,” she told reporters after the vote. She added, “He is an important voice in the Republican Party and we look forward to working with him.”

Stefanik thanked her colleagues after her election, citing the Revolutionary War battlefield at Saratoga, New York, near her home. Describing themes similar to those Republicans often emphasize, Stefanik said Americans there fought for “liberty, freedom and a limited government,” according to a person who provided the comments on condition of anonymity.

Trump issued a statement congratulating Stefanik, adding, “The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!”

Roy had said he was running because Stefanik’s voting record was too moderate and he didn’t want Republicans to affirm the party leader’s chosen candidate without a fight. After the vote, he downplayed GOP divisions.

“We had a great spirited debate,” he told reporters. He added, “Now we’re going to get busy, pointing out how the Democratic Party is destroying America.”

Stefanik got an early start lining up votes to succeed Cheney, a decisive factor in leadership races. 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.

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.

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.