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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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.

8:45 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

As vote nears on Cheney's replacement, Stefanik is in the conference room

From CNN's Clare Foran and Annie Grayer 

Rep. Elise Stefanik arrives on Capitol Hill on Friday, May 14.
Rep. Elise Stefanik arrives on Capitol Hill on Friday, May 14. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rep. Elise Stefanik walked into the conference room where the election for conference chair will start at approximately 8:30 a.m. ET.

Stefanik walked in through a door far away from where reporters are allowed to stand. 

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.

The New York representative has the backing of House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Whip Steve Scalise and former President Donald Trump.

9:22 a.m. ET, May 14, 2021

Here's a reminder of how the vote to oust Cheney unfolded on Wednesday

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer

The vote to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position took only 16 minutes.

Before the House Republican Conference met Wednesday morning to oust the Wyoming congresswoman from her position as the third-ranking Republican member in Congress, sources told CNN they expected it to be quick.

But it happened so quickly that some members arrived just in time for the vote. It stood in contrast to the more than four-hour meeting and vote that took place on February 4 that kept Cheney in leadership at the time, following her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The meeting began with Cheney giving remarks to her colleagues, where she once again called out Trump for his "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen and other Republicans who aided his efforts to overturn his loss, charging that she would lead "the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles."

"We cannot let the former President drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy," Cheney said in her remarks before being ousted. "Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country."

Sources told CNN that when she criticized Trump, she was booed by some of her colleagues.

She concluded her remarks with a prayer, which earned her a standing ovation, according to Rep. Ken Buck, a conservative Colorado Republican.

Then, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina made the motion to recall Cheney, thus formally beginning the process of removing her as conference chair.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke briefly and a voice vote was called. Because it was a voice vote, there is no tally of those who supported or opposed Cheney.

A source in the room told CNN that McCarthy made the same points he wrote in his letter released on Monday before the vote.

Another source told CNN that five lawmakers stood to request a recorded vote to remove Cheney from the leadership — but that did not happen and the gavel came down.

Cheney told colleagues it was up to McCarthy, a California Republican, whether he wanted a voice vote or not "and Kevin asked for voice," the source said.

After her ouster, Cheney walked out of the meeting and addressed reporters, saying she plans to lead the fight to move the Republican Party closer to the fundamental principles of conservatism.