A member of the House Republican leadership team has been whipping votes for New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney as the third-ranking GOP member.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) told The Post on Tuesday that he is confident the upstate New York congresswoman has the support needed to obtain the position.
Cheney has come under fire for her criticisms of former President Donald Trump and split with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), with a conference vote expected as soon as next week to determine whether she will retain her post.
Stefanik, 36, a former chair of the moderate Tuesday Group who played a leading role in defending Trump during his impeachment hearings, has a close working relationship with McCarthy — and GOP lawmakers said they feel a female member should replace Cheney should she be ousted from her leadership role.
“I don’t know how many members have been on the whipping efforts but I’ve been actively engaged whipping for Elise Stefanik and the reason that I think we need Elise, is if you just look at what Elise has done, she’s proven that she gets this on the merits,” Reschenthaler said.
“She was amazing when Trump was facing impeachment, she was one of his biggest defenders and she did that very well, so she has a command of the messaging, which is obviously important for conference chair.”
Reschenthaler said that from his talks with members, he believes the New York Republican is the likely successor to Cheney, noting the members he’s spoken with are pushing for a younger, pro-Trump voice to fill the position.
“I think Elise has the votes after talking to people — the fact that [Republican Study Committee Chairman] Jim Banks [R-Ind.] is not running opens a huge lane for Elise,” he continued.
“I think there’s also a lot to be said for a younger member to get in a position, and to signal that there’s a future for the Republican Party that is younger, and that’s going to help us bring more and more people under our tent.”
Stefanik has previously served as recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee and more recently launched a PAC aimed at getting more GOP women elected to Congress.
“Additionally, she had a large role in sustaining that majority because she recruited so many women who ultimately won in battleground districts. She’s a strategic thinker — we need somebody who sees the big picture and is going to move the conference into the future,” Reschenthaler said, adding, “We don’t need somebody that’s constantly relitigating issues from the past.”
Cheney overwhelmingly survived an attempt to oust her from leadership in February, shortly after she voted in favor of impeaching Trump over the Jan. 6 riot and takeover of the Capitol.
But Republican lawmakers said that this push feels different, with members expressing frustrations with Cheney over her split with McCarthy on the scope of the Jan. 6 commission, her comment that lawmakers who led the efforts to challenge the election results should be disqualified from being the GOP nominee in 2024 and not ruling out a presidential bid herself during the House Republican retreat in Orlando last week.
“I think that if the vote gets called to remove Liz Cheney, you’re going to have probably half the people that supported Liz in the last vote, if not more, vote to remove Liz,” Reschenthaler said.
“There’s a feeling that Liz has burned the conference by constantly rehashing November of 2020 and rehashing the events that led up to Biden’s inauguration, and people know that we’re not going to win in 2022 if we’re, we’re focused on the path to the past. So the path for us to retake the majority looks a lot better if we have a fresh voice in there, somebody that’s messaging about Joe Biden’s atrocious policies that his administration is putting forward, not somebody that’s constantly bashing,” he said.
Despite landing her in hot water with a number of her colleagues, Cheney is standing by her positions. The Wyoming Republican — the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress — has asserted she will not back down from disputing Trump’s repeated assertions that he actually won the 2020 election.
In response to McCarthy questioning her leadership abilities on Fox, Cheney’s office released a statement pushing back on his remarks.
“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6. Liz will not do that. That is the issue,” Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler said.
Cheney allies have defended the Wyoming Republican, arguing that removing her undermines the party’s “big tent” philosophy, and argue she has remained on message with promoting the GOP’s agenda and pushed back on Biden’s policies.
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) told The Hill.
“Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes,” Gonzalez added. “She’s going to stand on principle. And if that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”
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