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STORY BY LISA HAGEN, REPORTER | USNEWS.COM

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Published on May 13, 2021 6:04 AM

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After Liz Cheney's Ouster, Elise Stefanik's Ascension Likely – But Not Assured
Rep. Elise Stefanik still appears poised to replace Cheney but she's facing fresh scrutiny from conservatives who want a leader supportive of both Trump and their ideology.

House Republicans were mostly unified on removing Liz Cheney from leadership on Wednesday morning. But when it comes to her likely successor – the only candidate and one with high-ranking support including from Donald Trump – the party is still grappling with the type of Republican who should be leading the party heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

Since Cheney's ouster became increasingly apparent last week, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a moderate from New York and a staunch defender of Trump, emerged as an immediate front-runner to lead the House GOP Conference and locked down support from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and the former president himself. Within minutes of Wednesday's conference meeting, Cheney was booted out by voice vote and a replacement vote is likely happening later this week.

Stefanik, one of the youngest members in Congress who was first elected in 2014, appeared to check off a number of boxes, chief among them loyalty to Trump and her willingness to raise concerns about the 2020 election despite no evidence of widespread fraud. But her center-right voting record, her own experience flipping a blue district and her efforts to elect more Republican women could also serve as more of a road map for the party when competing next year for the House majority and trying to win back some of the voters they've lost to Democrats in recent years.

Some cracks, however, started to privately surface last week about Stefanik's candidacy from conservatives and groups like the Club for Growth who raised red flags about her voting record, which is to the left of Cheney's. And by the eve of the vote to oust Cheney, Stefanik started facing some public pushback as some want to hold off for at least a few days to assess a replacement.

Even with some looking to pump the brakes, Stefanik remains the favorite to take over the messaging arm of the House GOP and is so far the only contender – though it's still possible others could jump in late. She has reportedly indicated that she'll only serve through 2022 as the No. 3 Republican. And unwavering support for Trump remains a ...