House GOP picks Stefanik to replace Cheney as conference chair

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 5:40 p.m. ET, May 14, 2021
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10:56 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Stefanik on role of GOP conference chair: "My focus is on unity"

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was just voted to the No. 3 leadership position of conference chair after House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney, said her focus will be on unifying the party.

"I'd like to thank my colleagues for the opportunity to serve as the House Republican conference chair. I have prioritized listening to all members of our Republican conference, and my focus is on unity because that's what the American people and that's what our voters deserve," she said. 

Stefanik thanked former President Trump for his support and called him "a critical part of our Republican team."

The New York lawmaker slammed President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's policies, saying the GOP will fight against their measures.

"The American people are suffering under the far left radical socialist policies of President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In just over 100 days, we have an economic crisis. We have a border crisis. And we have a national security crisis," she told reporters.

Stefanik said she is "very excited" for the opportunity to be conference chair, and said House Republicans are "unified working as one team."

"The American people know that the stakes are incredibly high. We are going to fight for them each and every day against the destructive, radical far left socialist agenda of president Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi that's destroying America," she said.

Watch:

9:44 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Rep. Ken Buck says he backed Chip Roy because he’s more "conservative"

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Rep. Ken Buck attends a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2020.
Rep. Ken Buck attends a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June 2020. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican member of the Freedom Caucus, said he spoke up for Rep. Chip Roy because “he’s more conservative” and “more aligned” with the conference.

Asked if he was worried former President Trump would turn on him now that he came out in support of Roy, he said. “I’ve been looking for an exit strategy for six and a half years so if that is the exit strategy, that’s ok”

Buck said that he doesn’t feel worried that the election happened too fast. He said he doesn’t think the outcome would have been any different in a week and added that it’s now time to move on.

9:43 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Elise Stefanik was just voted into House GOP leadership. Here are key things to know about her. 

From CNN's Clare Foran and Lauren Fox

House Republicans voted to elevate Rep. Elise Stefanik to the No. 3 leadership position of conference chair after ousting Rep. Liz Cheney over her opposition to former President Trump.

Stefanik's rise within the party and embrace of Trump in recent years represents an evolution that mirrors that of her party, which coalesced behind Trump and remains loyal to him even with the former President no longer in office and after he attempted to overturn the last presidential election and incited a deadly attack on the US Capitol.

In 2016, Stefanik backed Trump as the party's presidential nominee, but worked to portray herself as an independent voice for her district.

She aligned herself at the time with House Speaker Paul Ryan, another Republican leader who carefully tiptoed around Trump's more outlandish comments and spoke out occasionally when he believed the President crossed the line.

In those early years, Stefanik largely kept out of the Trump fray, focusing instead on work on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, though she broke with Trump over some key priorities, including his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord and the 2017 GOP tax bill.

When House Democrats moved to impeach Trump for the first time in 2019, however, Stefanik emerged as one of the President's most outspoken defenders, earning Trump's praise in the process with the President calling her "a new Republican star."

During Trump's false claims over voter fraud and the 2020 election, Stefanik supported an objection during the Electoral College vote count in Congress held to certify President Joe Biden's win. She also signed on in support of an amicus brief backing a lawsuit from Texas to the Supreme Court that sought to overturn the results of the election in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.

Now, Stefanik has Trump's backing to replace Cheney with the former President saying that she "is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair."

Read more about her career here.

9:32 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Stefanik elected as House GOP conference chair

From CNN's Clare Foran, Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Annie Grayer

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Republicans just voted to elevate Rep. Elise Stefanik to the No. 3 leadership position of conference chair.

The final result was 134 votes for Stefanik and 46 for Rep. Chip Roy, according to multiple sources in the room. 

Earlier this week, Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from the conference chair role after she repeatedly called out former President Donald Trump's "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen.

9:25 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

House Republicans voting now for new conference chair

From CNN's Manu Raju, Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

From left, Representatives Chip Roy and Elise Stefanik.
From left, Representatives Chip Roy and Elise Stefanik. Getty Images

Things are moving quickly in the leadership election and the vote for new House GOP conference chair is starting, according to a source in the room. 

Elise Stefanik, a high-profile Trump defender, faces a conservative challenger — GOP Rep. Chip Roy — but his candidacy is viewed as a long-shot and she is widely anticipated to win.

Reps. John Katko, Ashley Hinson and Mike Kelly all gave speeches for Stefanik, per a member in the room.

Rep. Ralph Norman addressed the GOP conference to second Rep. Ken Buck’s nomination for Roy as conference chair, per a member in the room.

Rep. Lauren Boebert also spoke to nominate Roy.

9:10 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Representative who voted to impeach Trump will give nominating speech for Stefanik, source says

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Rep. John Katko speaks at a press conference on April 14.
Rep. John Katko speaks at a press conference on April 14. Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

A source familiar tells CNN this morning that Rep. John Katko will give the nominating speech for Rep. Elise Stefanik 

Katko was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach former President Trump and was an ally of Rep. Liz Cheney, who was ousted from the role of conference chair on Wednesday.

8:47 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

NOW: House Republicans meet behind closed doors to vote for Cheney replacement by secret ballot 

From CNN's Clare Foran

House Republicans are meeting now and are expected to vote to elevate Rep. Elise Stefanik to the No. 3 leadership position of conference chair after ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from the role.

Stefanik, a high-profile defender of former President Donald Trump, faces a conservative challenger — GOP Rep. Chip Roy — but his candidacy is viewed as a long-shot and she is widely anticipated to win. The New York congresswoman has the backing of House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Trump.

How the process will unfold: After some speeches, including nominating speeches, there will be a secret ballot election.

The closed meeting, GOP sources say, is expected to take about an hour.

8:51 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Stefanik's challenger Chip Roy calls for unity as he enters conference room for vote

From CNN's Annie Grayer 

Rep. Chip Roy, center, walks with reporters on Friday.
Rep. Chip Roy, center, walks with reporters on Friday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Chip Roy, who is challenging Rep. Elise Stefanik for the conference chair, position told reporters as he entered the room where the vote is happening that “it’s critically important that we have a strong, united message” but called for “a better process” on how this election takes place.

House Republicans are expected to vote today to elevate Stefanik to the No. 3 leadership position of conference chair after ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from the role.

8:48 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

"We are in a strong position," Stefanik says ahead of today's vote 

From CNN's Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is seen as the favorite to become the Republican Party’s next conference chair told reporters yesterday that the candidate forum between her and Rep. Chip Roy for the position was “a great discussion.”

Asked how she made her pitch to her colleagues, Stefanik said, “I was focused on unifying the conference. Making sure that we have, every member, has an opportunity to shine, rank and file members, and how we win the majority in 2022.”

When pressed on how many votes she has, as she previously enlisted many of her colleagues to do a whip count for her on her behalf, Stefanik said, “we are in a strong position.”

“I know the vote count we have and I'm in a strong position going into tomorrow, so I’m excited about the unity from all corners of the conference” Stefanik added when pressed to give a specific number.

Asked about Roy’s last minute bid challenging her for the position, Stefanik told reporters, “I think anybody can run.”

“I'm not going to attack anyone for running. I think it's healthy to have a debate and discussion” Stefanik added.

Asked how he contrasted himself with Stefanik, Roy said, “I think you can look at the policy issues and see a pretty clear distinction,” but pledged unity after the vote tomorrow. “We're all gonna walk out tomorrow united against the Democratic Party that is literally destroying our country by the day.”

Roy said he did not want to get into his opposition to the electoral objection, when asked if he considered it an important distinction with Stefanik. 

“I'm not going to get into any of the specifics, all I'm going to do is just say that this is a good, strong, robust conversation among my colleagues including Elise.”

Stefanik said the lawmakers did not discuss President Trump or the 2020 election.