- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Rep. Elise Stefanik is on the verge of becoming a household name.

The 36-year-old New York Republican has emerged seemingly overnight as the preferred pick to replace embattled Rep. Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference.

The spotlight swung in her direction Wednesday after former President Donald Trump and House Republican leaders endorsed her to take over the No. 3 job in House Republican leadership.

Erasing any doubt about her interest in the position, Ms. Stefanik welcomed the support.

“Thank you President Trump for your 100% support for House GOP Conference Chair,” she said in a post on Twitter. “We are unified and focused on FIRING PELOSI & WINNING in 2022!”

The moment arguably has been years in the making.

SEE ALSO: Twitter briefly suspends Elise Stefanik’s communications director

New York Republicans touted Ms. Stefanik as the future of their party in 2014 after she became, at the age of 30, the youngest woman at the time elected to Congress.

Casting herself as a “new generation conservative,” Ms. Stefanik played up her ties to former President George W. Bush and 2012 vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul D. Ryan. She ran on a familiar Republican platform of repealing Obamacare, cutting spending and bringing jobs to her district.

Then-House Speaker John A. Boehner and then-Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave her a boost by appearing with her on the campaign trail.

Ms. Stefanik, whose family owns a plywood company, worked on the Domestic Policy Council in the Bush administration and served as director of debate preparation for Mr. Ryan’s vice presidential campaign.

Since her election to Congress, Ms. Stefanik has been an enigma of sorts. She compiled one of the most bipartisan records in the House while emerging as one of the sharpest pro-Trump voices on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Stefanik voted against the Trump tax cuts in 2017. She also broke with the Trump administration in early 2019 by voting to reopen the federal government from a partial shutdown stemming from Democrats’ refusal to fund construction of Mr. Trump’s border wall.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans, tapped Ms. Stefanik as vice chair for recruitment during the 2018 midterm election cycle. She advocated for electing more Republican women to the House.

That same year, she said she disagreed with some of the rhetoric Mr. Trump directed toward women after the president called porn actress Stormy Daniels “horseface.”

Gradually, though, she has become an avid Trump defender.

She arguably reached that turning point in 2019, during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment hearings in the House.

As the only Republican woman on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, she accused her Democratic colleagues of pursuing a “partisan attack” on the president. Her questioning of witnesses won praise from Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans.

She voted against impeaching Mr. Trump over the role he played in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. She was among the 139 House Republicans who voted to object to the certification of electoral votes after the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol complex.

“President Trump is right to recommend Rep. Elise Stefanik for the leadership post currently held by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming,” said New York State Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar. “Congresswoman Stefanik has the respect of her conference and a positive, forward-looking vision for her party and the nation.”

She also has emerged as a target for the Republican Party’s establishment wing, which is looking to turn the page on the Trump era.

The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans, panned the push to elevate Ms. Stefanik to leadership at Ms. Cheney’s expense.

They said she is the poster child for the “decay of the GOP under Donald Trump” and has gone from having a bright future to “just being another Trump apologist.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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