House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday confirmed his endorsement of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) as chair of the House Republican conference, the chamber’s third-most powerful party position, in a bid that seeks to replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the GOP congresswoman facing ire from some Republicans for her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
McCarthy confirmed his endorsement while speaking to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday as House Republicans look to move forward with a vote to oust Cheney from the role expected Wednesday morning.
“As conference chair, you have one of the most critical jobs, of the messenger going forward,” McCarthy said before voicing his support for Stefanik, a staunch Trump ally who’s campaigned for the powerful role by saying the Republican party should rally around the former president.
Stefanik thanked McCarthy for the endorsement in a tweet Sunday, saying: “Together, as one team, we will stand up for the American people and #FIREPelosi in 2022.”
Elected to Congress in 2014, Stefanik previously held a close political relationship with Cheney, even saying she was “proud to nominate” Cheney as GOP conference chair at a 2019 forum.
The 36-year-old, however, has distanced herself from Cheney’s views in a campaign to replace the chair, insisting on Thursday that the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen from Trump—a far cry from Cheney, who’s urged Republicans to avoid the “dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”
Trump endorsed Stefanik in a Wednesday statement, calling her a “far superior choice” to Cheney, and adding: “We want leaders who believe in the ‘make America great again’ movement.”
“Everyone in leadership serves at the pleasure of the conference, and as you know, there’s a lot at stake; Democrats are destroying the nation,” McCarthy said Sunday. “That’s why we will have a vote [this] week and we want to be united and… moving forward, and I think that’s what will take place.”
Stefanik’s rising prominence in the GOP comes as the party grapples with a growing chasm among its pro-Trump arm and those who are seeking to distance themselves from the former president. Among one of his most vocal critics, Cheney was one of only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in his second impeachment trial earlier this year, and she’s faced a wave of growing backlash for it. The vote to oust her this week would mark the second time Republicans have tried to remove her as House conference chair after a prior vote in February—fresh off her impeachment vote. At the time, however, Cheney had McCarthy’s support.
“If you look at the polls, there is a whole group of folks that agree with Liz Cheney,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said to NBC News’ Meet the Press Sunday morning, emphasizing that the current GOP conference chair consistently supports conservative policies. “Ultimately it’s about the policies,” he added, joining only a few other Republicans who have voiced support for Cheney ahead of the power-stripping vote.