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Will Liz Cheney's would-be successor face a Republican rival?

Elise Stefanik will probably get the job when House Republicans vote tomorrow on their new conference chair. But a lot can happen in a day.


Yesterday morning, House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her position as chair of the House GOP Conference, creating a vacancy in the party's leadership team. For now, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is the only announced candidate for the job, and she's secured endorsements from the top Republican leaders.

All Stefanik has to do now is wait to see if any rivals step up. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is backing the New York congresswoman, but he's also opened the door to a competitive process.

[McCarthy] said he welcomes other Republicans who want to challenge Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) for the third-ranking spot in GOP leadership, but said he expects she has the support to win.... He added, "Anybody can run." McCarthy later reiterated that it was an open race, telling CNN reporter Ryan Nobles that "competition is good."

Whether there will be any competition is unclear. Politico, citing "multiple Republican sources," reported yesterday that Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus member and former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is considering the leadership race, and may have an opening. The article said some conservative members have expressed concerns that GOP leaders are "moving too quickly to anoint" Cheney's successor.

To that end, Roy sent a memo to every House Republican this week, making the case against elevating Stefanik to the #3 position in the GOP leadership. "We must avoid putting in charge Republicans who campaign as Republicans but then vote for and advance the Democrats' agenda once sworn in, he wrote, adding, "[W]ith all due respect to my friend, Elise Stefanik, let us contemplate the message Republican leadership is about to send by rushing to coronate a spokesperson whose voting record embodies much of what led to the 2018 ass-kicking we received by Democrats."

In comments to reporters yesterday, the Texan added, "I don't believe there should be a coronation. I believe that if the leader wants us to be united, then he should take the time to do this the right way."

If Roy is serious about seeking the position, he'll have to decide quickly: House Republicans have scheduled a forum for prospective conference chairs for this evening.

Complicating matters a bit, the forum will be led by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, who's already received some support as another possible Cheney successor. "I would proudly support Mike Johnson in the race for conference chair if he decides to run," Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said this week. "He is a powerful conservative mind who is a happy warrior and the leader we need."

It's very unlikely that Johnson would get the gig -- there's already a far-right Louisiana Republican in the House Republican leadership -- but the fact that there's even talk along these lines suggest some GOP members are still eyeing alternatives to Stefanik.

In fact, a handful of notable House Republicans, including Colorado's Ken Buck and California's Tom McClintock, have said the New Yorker isn't conservative enough for them.

If I were a betting man, I'd put money on Stefanik getting the job when House Republicans vote tomorrow on their new chair. But a lot can happen in a day.

Postscript: For what it's worth, Chip Roy, unlike Liz Cheney, opposed the impeachment resolution against Donald Trump in January. That said, the Texas Republican did say on the House floor in January that he had a problem with Trump demanding that then-Vice President Mike Pence overturn the election on his behalf.

"The president of the United States deserves universal condemnation for what was clearly, in my opinion, impeachable conduct, pressuring the vice president to violate his oath to the Constitution," Roy said at the time.

I mention this, of course, because if pro-Trump forces are weighing their options, and Cheney's support for Trump's impeachment was a problem, Roy may yet have a related problem.