But even skeptics of Stefanik’s conservative credentials say she’s preferable to Cheney on the most important factor: her loyalty to the former President. The New York congresswoman became one of Trump’s most visible defenders in Congress as part of his 2020 impeachment defense after initially criticizing Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 campaign and telling voters that she would be an “independent voice.”
“Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney wrote. “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”
Here’s what to watch as the vote approaches:
Leadership gets vocal about Stefanik
“Yes, I do,” McCarthy told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo when asked if he supports the New York Republican for the No. 3 role.
CNN previously reported that McCarthy has been supporting Stefanik to replace Cheney, and the No. 2 member of House Republican leadership, Rep. Steve Scalise, publicly endorsed Stefanik’s bid for the job last week.
Last week, McCarthy claimed Cheney’s impeachment vote wouldn’t cost her the job. Instead, he said that she has not done enough to keep the party unified behind a singular message to win back the majority next year. “I have heard from members, concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” McCarthy told Fox News.”
Limited GOP support for Cheney
While the GOP support to replace Cheney appears overwhelming, a select few Republicans have made their opposition known — and are likely to continue doing so as the vote draws closer.
“And so I think what the reality is, is as a party, we have to have an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to January 6th. I mean, right now, it’s basically the Titanic,” the Illinois Republican said.
GOP figures off Capitol Hill have pushed back on the vote too.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox raised concerns about the message Cheney’s ouster sends to a party trying to grow. “Well, it shows that we’re very divided as a party, and that’s no secret. I’m not the first person to say that,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked what it means. “But as we talk about broadening the tent and bringing in a new generation of Republicans — we really have to allow for those types of differences.”
Cindy McCain — widow of longtime Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona — has also warned that the GOP needs to exercise caution as it mulls ousting Cheney.
“It doesn’t serve any good if we just oust someone who really is a good representative of the party.”
But even moderate Republican Rep. John Katko, who voted to impeach Trump and was an ally of Cheney, told a local newspaper last week he will back his fellow New Yorker for the job, a clear signal that Cheney’s leadership tenure is coming to an end.
Stefanik to address House Freedom Caucus
During a Wednesday night conference call, multiple members of the far-right Freedom Caucus voiced deep reservations about Stefanik as the consensus choice for Republican conference chair — even as they conceded she has the votes to succeed Cheney.
A House member on the call told CNN the caucus has concerns about Stefanik’s moderate voting record and her uneven stance on a wide range of issues the group prioritizes, including immigration and LGBTQ rights.
That assurance could help assuage concerns on the right over her more moderate voting record, though she’s widely viewed as a virtual lock for the No. 3 job when the vote happens.
If McCarthy doesn’t call for a vote, another Republican could. But there are also special procedures in place to ultimately force another vote, which could take more time.
One path requires 20% of the House GOP conference — 43 members — to submit a petition for a special meeting. They would then schedule that meeting within 10 “legislative” days, or days they’re in session in the nation’s capital.
At the special meeting, the members can then bring up a resolution to remove Cheney. If two-thirds of the conference — 142 members — want, they can immediately vote. Otherwise, the petition would be referred to a committee that can then either report the petition to the conference for a full vote or kill the resolution.
Any leadership vote is a secret ballot cast behind closed doors.
CNN’s Alex Rogers, Manu Raju and Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.