Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, has suggested she is leaning against running for whip, a leadership position that would become open if House Republicans win the majority and which several other GOP members are eyeing, four sources confirmed to the Washington Examiner.
Two senior GOP sources said that Stefanik, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has been keeping her options open in terms of moving up the party leadership ranks. The upstate New York congresswoman is also being eyed by those in the orbit of former President Donald Trump as his running mate if he makes a 2024 White House comeback bid.
STEFANIK ON THE DEFENSIVE FROM CHENEY AND KINZINGER OVER 'PEDO GRIFTERS' REMARK
The majority whip position would open up if House Republicans win control in November, an effort requiring netting five seats in the 435-member chamber at a time when President Joe Biden's approval ratings continue to decline amid persistently high inflation, spiking gas prices, and a range of other problems. In a House Republican majority, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would presumably become the speaker, and Rep. Steve Scalise, who is now the minority whip, would move up to majority leader.
That would leave open the whip position, and the race for it is expected to be crowded. Top contenders being floated include Chief Deputy Whip Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks, and the head of the House GOP campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Emmer.
Stefanik's communications director, Ali Black, said the congresswoman's sole focus at this point is helping Republicans win the House majority and ousting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from the chamber's top job.
"Congresswoman Stefanik is focused on serving as House Republican Conference chair as the chief messaging and communications strategist for what is looking to be a red tsunami in the House," Black said. "She is committed to working her hardest in the #3 slot through Election Day to ensure we fire Nancy Pelosi once and for all. She is encouraged by the positive outpouring of support and encouragement from her colleagues for future opportunities in the House. She never takes any election for granted, and she will not be making any announcements about future positions until after ensuring Republicans win big this November to save America.”
Stefanik became the House Republican Conference's leader in May 2021, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was ousted from the leadership over her criticisms of Trump. At the time, Stefanik vowed to be in the leadership position for one term. But one GOP lawmaker confirmed that Stefanik has spoken about potentially seeking another term in the role.
A GOP strategist said no post-election day decisions have been made.
"Elise is in the top tier for whip. Period," the person said. "Anyone who says otherwise is wishing her away because they fear how effective she is. She is smart to hold her cards close and focus on her job at hand leading the conference, while others are measuring the drapes."
And Stefanik has in recent years strongly embraced Trump, becoming a vocal defender during the first House impeachment proceedings against him in fall 2019 — that despite her initial sharp criticisms of the former president and her prior reputation as a leading centrist voice in the House. This included opposing the 2017 Trump tax cut legislation, the former president's signature domestic achievement. Stefanik was among 12 House Republicans to oppose the law, compared with 227 who voted in favor.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Despite that, Stefanik's name has swirled as a potential national candidate. Two senior GOP sources floated Stefanik joining a Trump ticket. Those officials said Trump could decide he needs a woman on the ticket in 2024 to attract suburban women voters — which they credited for her pivot to the right and increasingly provocative rhetoric on social media.
A former top Trump administration official confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Stefanik’s name had been raised as a potential running mate but added that Trump’s current team of advisers aren’t “fans of it.”
Three GOP lawmakers described Stefanik as “ambitious,” though that's hardly a rare quality among members of Congress, particularly in leadership roles. When Stefanik won her upstate New York seat in 2014 at age 30, she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez subsequently eclipsed Stefanik, elected in 2018 at age 29.)
However, Stefanik's move to become a strong Trump supporter, embracing the "ultra-MAGA" description, has some House Republican colleagues puzzled.
“It’s hard to trust someone who changes their deep-held philosophical positions unless there's some conversion story,” one senior lawmaker said. “As a lifelong conservative, that makes me uncomfortable. Like, OK, I'm glad you're on the right side of the issue with my perspective, but it doesn't make me trust you.”
But others argue her political transformation has earned her a place at the leadership table, factoring in the increasing pro-Trump nature of her House seat, the sprawling 21st Congressional District, which under new lines set to take effect in January 2023 covers the northeastern quadrant of New York state. The current version of the 21st District, represented by Stefanik, covers similar territory, including the suburbs of Albany, New York, a long stretch of the Canadian border, and much of New York's shared state line with Vermont.
“Her district changed, and Elise has done a good job of communicating with each of us," said one conservative House Republican member. "She's done a great job as a leader, and she's been a consensus builder.”
Another lawmaker praised her leadership role in the House GOP over the past year.
“With what she did on this conference chair in terms of the messaging and the materials, I like it. It's been a good, concise, usable format,” the senior lawmaker said. “She's the lead in charge of the press conferences. I’ve got to tell you, she's earned it, but it has definitely been an evolution.”