As she works to secure her election, Stefanik has told colleagues she’d serve as No. 3 leader only through the 2022 election year, said a GOP lawmaker and an aide speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations. She’s said she’d take the top GOP slot on the House Education and Labor Committee the following year. The scenario was first reported by Politico.
Delaying the Stefanik vote could also help McCarthy, who hopes to be elected speaker should Republicans win House control in the 2022 elections. There’s no need for him to risk support from conservatives, long skeptical of him, by denying them a chance to advance a Stefanik challenger.
The dustup is underscoring the disconnect that sometimes exists between Trump and the party’s ideological right wing. It also poses a test of conservatives’ clout when they don’t have the former president behind them — a battle they seem likely to lose this time.
Conservatives have tussled for years for influence within the GOP. They’ve won some fights, like forcing the early retirement of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but lost many others.
“Leadership elections are always an opportunity for discussions about the future” of House Republicans, said Michael Steel, who was a top aide to Boehner and other leading GOP figures.
Stefanik, whose office declined to comment for this article, does have some significant conservative credentials. These include past support from the National Rifle Association, endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, and recent praise from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a conservative leader.”
But she’s consistently gotten moderate scores for her voting record: a lifetime 48% from Heritage Action for America and 35% from Club for Growth, a pair of conservative organizations, among the lowest grades for House Republicans.
She voted with Trump 78% of the time when he was president, according to votes tracked by the website fivethirtyeight.com, again one of the lowest marks in the House GOP. That included voting to oppose Trump’s signature 2017 tax cuts, his unilateral use of money to build the southern border wall and his withdrawal of troops from Syria.
Stefanik has “a lot of work to do” to win over the GOP’s more conservative activists, said Adam Brandon, president of the conservative FreedomWorks.
Stefanik criticized Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, including calling his remarks in a 2005 video about sexually assaulting women “offensive” and “just wrong.” She said his crude description of African countries in 2018 was “contrary to our American ideals.”
In 2019, she became a highly visible foe of Trump’s first impeachment over his attempts to pressure Ukraine to produce political dirt about Joe Biden, who was then a presidential candidate.
She has since embraced many of Trump’s evidence-free claims about 2020 election fraud. She declared this week that states unconstitutionally changed their election laws and said she supports an audit of Arizona votes that conservatives are using to bolster suspicions about the results.
Stefanik’s northern New York district backed Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election, then Trump in 2016 and 2020.
“You can’t really believe whether she is or isn’t” a Trump supporter, the Club for Growth’s McIntosh said. “I’d warn him that, in a couple of years, she won’t be for you.”
Cheney, on the other hand, was rated 80% by Heritage Action and 65% by Club for Growth, while voting 93% of the time with Trump.
Cheney is being deposed after voting to impeach Trump for encouraging supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and for energetically contesting his false claims that his 2020 election defeat to Biden was fraudulent.
Some Republicans have said that as a party leader, she should have stifled her criticisms of Trump, which they fear are distracting from efforts to recapture the House. Cheney has cast her position as defending the Constitution.