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Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on May 12. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans voted 134-46 in a secret ballot Friday to appoint Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) as the chair of the GOP conference, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Why it matters: Stefanik's appointment underscores how important loyalty to former President Trump remains to the Republican Party.

Driving the news: The election comes after Cheney was ousted earlier this week over her repeated condemnation of Trump. She has pledged to continue the fight to shape the GOP and stop the former president from ever holding office again.

  • Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and plans to lean into her criticisms of both Trump and those she believes are his enablers — including GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.
  • Stefanik, who aligned more with moderate Republicans before becoming an ardent Trump defender during his 2019 impeachment, has embraced a number of his false claims about the election.

The big picture: As the No. 3 House Republican, Stefanik will be responsible for helping craft the conference's messaging. Top Republicans say her elevation will allow the GOP to focus its energy on combating President Biden's agenda, rather than getting derailed by intra-party feuds.

  • Trump, McCarthy, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) endorsed Stefanik prior to Friday's vote. "The House GOP has a massive opportunity to upgrade this week from warmonger Liz Cheney to gifted communicator Elise Stefanik," Trump said in a statement.
  • Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who has criticized Stefanik's conservative credentials, mounted a late, but ultimately failed challenge this week. He won 45 votes.

What she's saying: "My focus is on unity because that's what the American people and that's what our voters deserve," Stefanik said in a press conference immediately after being elected.

  • "I also want to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican team," she added.
  • "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."

Between the lines: Despite her public loyalty to Trump, Stefanik only voted in line with the former president's positions 77.7% of the time while he was in office, according to FiveThirtyEight. Cheney, by comparison, voted with Trump 92.9% of the time.

Behind the scenes: The GOP conference meeting began at 8:30 a.m. ET and was over relatively quickly, given the overwhelming support for Stefanik. Members were eager to get out of town for the weekend.

Go deeper

House Republicans vote to remove Liz Cheney from leadership

House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as conference chair in a voice vote Wednesday, capping months of growing backlash over her criticisms of former President Trump, according to two sources in the room.

Why it matters: The stunning removal of the No. 3 House Republican over her condemnation of Trump's election lies reflects the influence the former president still retains over the GOP.

May 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney: McCarthy's visit to Mar-a-Lago after Jan. 6 was "really stunning"

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told NBC's "Today" that GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's January visit to Mar-a-Lago to see former President Trump after the Capitol riots was "really stunning."

Why it matters: Now that she has officially been ousted as House GOP conference chair, Cheney plans to lean even harder into her criticism of Trump and those she thinks are continuing to enable him — including McCarthy.

Mike Allen, author of AM
May 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney's plan to take on Trump

Cheney speaking to reporters after being removed as GOP conference chair yesterday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) plans to make her purge the beginning of a new movement, with campaign travel, fundraising and speeches to challenge Donald Trump for ideological dominance of the GOP.

Driving the news: Sources in Cheney's camp tell me her message will be the importance of the truth, the need to move past Trump, and a push to articulate conservative policy and substance to combat Democrats.