House Republicans could enrage conservative groups by elevating Elise Stefanik to leadership — here's why

House Republicans could enrage conservative groups by elevating Elise Stefanik to leadership — here's why

With House Republicans having ousted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as House Republican Conference chair, Rep. Elise Stefanik of upstate New York is likely become the third highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives. It isn't hard to understand why House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise want Stefanik to replace Cheney, who has infuriated supporters of former President Donald Trump by refusing to go along with former president Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election and saying, without hesitation, that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States. Stefanik, in contrast, has become a devout Trump supporter. But the Center for Responsive Politics' Karl Evers-Hillstrom, in an article published this week, notes that some conservative groups have strong reservations about the 36-year-old congresswoman.

Stefanik wasn't far-right when she was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 back when President Barack Obama was serving his second term. In those days, she had a reputation for being more moderate. Stefanik, in fact, was critical of Trump during his 2016 campaign. But Stefanik has since rebranded herself as a full-fledged Trump loyalist, and after the 2020 election, she shamelessly promoted his false claims of widespread election fraud — unlike Cheney, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah or Rep. Adam Kinzinger, all of whom acknowledged Biden as president-elect and pushed back against the president's lie.

Evers-Hillstrom says of Stefanik, "Her rise to GOP leadership represents a blow to conservative groups that enjoy influence with House Republicans but cannot match Trump's grip on the party. Stefanik battled these groups during her time in Congress, even directly competing with them during 2020 primaries."

One of those groups is the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group whose president, David McIntosh, is highly critical of Stefanik for voting against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and believes that she isn't a true fiscal conservative. McIntosh recently told CNN, "What they need in the Republican Party in Congress is people who truly believe the principles the Republican Party stands for: smaller government, freedom, common sense approach to rebuilding the economy. And Elise Stefanik has a long record of not being on board with those."

Evers-Hillstrom points out that the Club for Growth "clashed with Stefanik throughout the 2020 primary season."

"The group ran ads attacking several candidates endorsed by Stefanik's E-PAC, launched to elect more Republican women," Evers-Hillstrom observes. "The Club spent nearly $1 million opposing Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) in last year's primary, releasing a controversial attack ad attempting to connect her to Harvey Weinstein. Bice ultimately won the primary, and a seat in Congress, with Stefanik's support."

Another conservative group that has criticized Stefanik is FreedomWorks. Evers-Hillstrom notes that Cesar Ybarra, senior director of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, recently said of Stefanik, "Republican leadership is good at picking non-conservatives for those spots."

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