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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5:38 p.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Liz Cheney: We have an obligation to stand for the truth

From CNN's Caroline Kelly


Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, whose criticism of former President Trump led to her ouster from House Republican leadership, said Friday that her role as a member of Congress obligated her to oppose the widespread lie of fraud in the 2020 election.

"This is duty, and it's about truth, and we've had a collapse of truth in this country," she told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" when asked what it was like to be shunned by her fellow House Republicans in defending the Constitution.

"We've seen an evolution of, you know, a general situation where conspiracy theories are rampant, where good people in a lot of instances have been mislead and believe things that are not true," Cheney continued. "And so, I think that we all have an obligation to make sure we're doing everything we can to convey the truth, to stand for the truth and to stand for the Constitution and our obligations."

Hours earlier, New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, a vocal ally of the former President who has a less conservative voting record than Cheney, was elected House conference chairwoman. The key difference between the two women is that Stefanik has supported Trump's baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election while Cheney has repeatedly rebutted them, leading House Republicans to complain that the Wyoming Republican is undermining the party's message of promoting Trump's brand of politics.

Cheney has dropped some hints about her next steps as they relate to shaping the future of the party, confirming that she will run for reelection for her US House seat next year while also not ruling out a run for president.

"I intend to be the leader, one of the leaders, in a fight to help to restore our party," she told NBC in an interview that aired Thursday morning, warning that Trump is willing "to unravel the democracy to come back into power."

Read more here.

2:27 p.m. ET, May 14, 2021

A look back at Stefanik's rise within House GOP leadership 

From CNN's Clare Foran

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Elise Stefanik's rise within the ranks of House GOP leadership and Rep. Liz Cheney's removal starkly underscores the Republican Party's entrenched loyalty to former President Trump and the limited extent to which it is willing to tolerate dissent even after Trump's election lies incited a deadly attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

Aides close to the race also told CNN that Stefanik's quick rise was emblematic of the congresswoman's own ambitions.

"She just outhustled everyone," one senior GOP aide told CNN.

Amid Trump's false claims over voter fraud, Stefanik supported an objection during the Electoral College vote count to affirm President 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 several states.

Trump stood by Stefanik in her run for the leadership post and weighed in on Rep. Chip Roy's late entry into the race Thursday evening with a statement slamming the congressman and reiterating his support for the congresswoman.

"Can't imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy — he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!" he said.

Stefanik has made a pitch to House Republicans that she will help deliver on a message of unity and united opposition to Democrats in Congress and in the White House as the party works to win back the House majority in 2022.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy congratulated Stefanik on her election at a news conference after the vote, before pivoting to criticism of Democrats.

"I want to congratulate Elise Stefanik and welcome her to the leadership team," he said, adding that Republicans had "a healthy debate and a good election."

Stefanik did face pushback from some conservative House Republicans in her bid for leadership.

The congresswoman represents a district that pivoted in the past from voting for former President Barack Obama to Trump and she has long been known on Capitol Hill as a more moderate Republican. And while the congresswoman has made a name for herself as an ardent Trump supporter in recent years, that wasn't always the case.

In 2015, 2016 and the early days of his term in office, she criticized Trump on a range of issues from his incendiary comments about Muslims and women to his signature policy positions, such as overhauling NATO, building a US-Mexico border wall and having stronger cooperation with Russia.

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, taking on Democrats and earning Trump's praise as "a new Republican star."

Read more about today's vote here.

11:57 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Rep. Chip Roy on failed bid for House GOP conference chair: "The country wins when we have a robust debate"

From CNN's Ali Main 

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

After a failed attempt to challenge Rep. Elise Stefanik's bid to be House Republican conference chair, Rep. Chip Roy told reporters, "look, the country wins when we have a robust debate. I think Elise agrees with that."

"I think really what's really important is that we recognize that, you know, speaking about things, talking about things, isn't going to get the job done. We have to stand up and fight to save this republic," he said as he left the Capitol on Friday.

The Texas Republican dismissed former President Donald Trump's statement saying he would likely be primaried in 2022 as "beltway drama."

"We're here trying to do our job and carry forward the message for the American people. And, you know, I stood up in defense of policies that the President supports," he said, aligning himself with the former President on various issues.

Roy did not answer when asked whether he thought any of Trump's ire was due to his vote to certify the Electoral College results for President Biden on January 6.

11:36 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Cheney was not at today's conference meeting, source tells CNN

From CNN's Manu Raju

Rep. Liz Cheney wasn’t at today’s Republican conference meeting, a source with direct knowledge confirms to CNN. 

CNN reported earlier that she was not seen at the event. Cheney declined to answer CNN's Daniella Diaz's questions when asked about it. 

House Republicans voted this morning to replace Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik after ousting Cheney from the role on Wednesday for her opposition to former President Trump.

10:22 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Stefanik says Trump is the leader of GOP, but there is also room for his critics

From CNN's Annie Grayer, Lauren Fox and Ali Main

Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Newly elected Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik told reporters after her victory that former President Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party but his outspoken critics like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger still have a place in the party.

"I believe that voters determine the leader of the Republican Party, and President Trump is the leader that they look to. I support President Trump, voters support President Trump. He is an important voice in our Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him,” Stefanik said.

But she added, “Liz Cheney is a part of this conference. Adam Kinzinger is a part of this conference. They were elected and sent here by the people in their district. They're part of this Republican conference. We are unified in working with President Trump. My job representing our Republican members, the vast majority who look forward to working with President Trump."

Stefanik stated her belief that the Republican Party is a “big tent party,” even though Cheney was ousted for criticizing Trump, and Trump suggested that Chip Roy should be primaried just for running in the conference chair race.

Stefanik said she has not spoken to Cheney this week. 

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson all congratulated Stefanik. 

"I want to congratulate Elise Stefanik, and welcome her to the leadership team. I want to thank Chip Roy, as well. We had a healthy debate and a good election. We've got a lot of work to do in this leadership team. We'v got a lot of work to do in this conference. The policies of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are destroying this nation,” McCarthy said. 

"I also want to congratulate our new conference chair, Elise Stefanik. Congratulations, you're going to do a great job. Our conference is incredibly unified right now, but we're also very concerned because America is experiencing numerous crises,” Scalise added. 

Johnson, who previously had not publicly supported Stefanik said, “we are unified.”

“There is a great feeling coming out of that auditorium today, and we are ready to face this challenge to present this vision to get our message to the American people and to take back the house in 2022."

10:25 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Cheney not seen at GOP conference meeting, according multiple sources

From CNN's Manu Raju

Three sources say they did not see Rep. Liz Cheney at the leadership meeting today where Rep. Elise Stefanik was elected as her replacement. 

Her office told CNN they are not sure if she attended or not.

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

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.


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.