The top Republican in the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, is done throwing hints and suggestions. On Sunday, he made it official and publicly stated that he’s endorsing Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as the Republican conference chair. “Yes I do,” McCarthy answered on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures when host Maria Bartiromo asked whether he supported Stefanik, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, to become the GOP’s next No. 3 leader in the House.
The endorsement isn’t exactly surprising. Last week, McCarthy had been caught on a hot mic saying he “had it with her” in reference to the lawmaker from Wyoming during an off-air conversation with Fox News host Steve Doocy. On air, McCarthy said Republican lawmakers had concerns over Cheney’s ability “to carry out the message.” But until Sunday, McCarthy had publicly avoided staking out a clear decision on Cheney’s future.
During the Sunday interview, McCarthy avoided mentioning Cheney by name even as he spoke about the campaign to oust her from the leadership position amid her criticism of former President Donald Trump. McCarthy took pains to emphasize that replacing Cheney had nothing to do with her views on Trump but was really about party unity. “We need a conference that’s united,” he said. “That’s why we need a conference chair that is delivering that message, day in and day out, and uniting the nation, to make sure that we are on the right footing going forward.”
Stefanik, who represents New York’s 21st congressional district since 2015, quickly seized on McCarthy’s endorsement and sent a tweet thanking him. “Together, as one team, we will stand up for the American people and #FIREPelosi in 2022,” she tweeted. The second-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had already publicly backed Stefanik. House Republicans could vote as early as Wednesday to remove Cheney from the leadership position.