Washington (CNN)Even as Rep. Elise Stefanik has consolidated her position as the likely replacement for Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican, her voting record has raised concerns from some conservatives in the House and around Washington.
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 Freedom 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.
Meanwhile conservative outside interest groups are also expressing trepidation about Stefanik’s rise, especially since her record is less conservative than Cheney’s. But even skeptics of Stefanik’s conservative credentials say she’s preferable to Cheney on the most important factor: her loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
“Liz Cheney is a true conservative. She has better ratings across the board. Elise was a moderate and a Trump skeptic who realized she had to pivot to Trump — and she did,” said one prominent conservative activist who was granted anonymity to speak more freely. “Elise satisfies the litmus test that she is pro-Trump. And that’s all that counts these days in our coalition. And I think we are a coalition, not a party today, because there are plenty of the Trump folks, the MAGA folks who are not true Republicans.”
The reaction from conservatives inside and outside Congress around Washington reflects the speed with which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has moved to oust Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, from her position in leadership. Despite Trump’s own endorsement of Stefanik, some activist groups are making their displeasure known.
The pro-market Club for Growth tweeted on Wednesday that Stefanik is a “liberal” and has just a 35% lifetime score with the group. And social conservatives were turned off by Stefanik’s past support for legislation that would have extended non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans.
“Not a fan,” said Terry Schilling, the executive director of the American Principles Project, a social conservative advocacy group, when asked about Stefanik.
But that distaste for Stefanik does not reflect an affinity for Cheney among conservative activists.
“I think we could find someone else for leadership (other) than Stefanik, but I’ll take her over Cheney any day,” said Schilling.
Activists say they are wary of how quickly Republicans have lined up behind Stefanik, even if there is no apparent alternative to the New York congresswoman when it comes to replacing Cheney.
“This train is headed down the tracks. The only way to stop it is to blow up
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