One week into leadership: Rep. Elise Stefanik on influence and Capitol controversies

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is one week into her new role as the Conference Chairwoman for Republicans in the member of U.S. House of Representatives.

Washington Bureau Reporter Kyle Midura caught up with her as she made her way back to New York’s North Country from D.C. They discussed the controversy surrounding last week’s power struggle, why she opposes a commission to look into the January 6th insurrection, and her predecessor’s accusations that she’s complicit in spreading fear and misinformation. But, Kyle began their conversation by asking whether constituents here at home will benefit from her new influence on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Elise Stefanik: The North Country is very proud that we have a seat at the table at the highest levels. I’m excited for the opportunity to share the priorities of our district with my colleagues who represent districts across the country.

Kyle Midura: Can you still break with your own party when you feel it’s appropriate and work with Democrats?

Rep. Elise Stefanik: I will continue to reach across the aisle when there are areas of agreement. But, I’ve always stood by my principles as a Republican representing the North Country. The Northern border reopening, that’s going to be really important and that has been very bipartisan. So, that’s an opportunity, as well as rural broadband, I think we can look for ways we can work together. but there are big divides as well.

Kyle Midura: Minority Leader McCarthy asked your fellow New York Republican – Rep.John Katko – to strike a deal to create a bipartisan commission tasked with looking into the events of January 6th. Katko reached that deal, but while 35 Republicans voted for it, you and the rest of the leadership pushed for the conference to vote against it. Can you explain why?

Rep. Elise Stefanik: I believe we need a commission that has a broad scope to address the rise of political violence broadly, not just on January 6th, but looking back to last year at the destruction of federal buildings across the country, the BLM riots, the fires, the looting.

Kyle Midura: Given it would’ve been split 50-50 on the appointments to the commission, if that was a route they wanted to go down, they could have, no?

Rep. Elise Stefanik: You shouldn’t let commissions sort of define their own scope. They also didn’t address my key concern, protecting the independence of the ongoing cases and prosecution against the criminals who committed that destruction and violence on January 6th.

Kyle Midura: You’ve taken over this new leadership role from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) who you previously nominated for the job. Before last Wednesday’s vote, Cheney said: “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former presidents crusade to undermine our democracy.” When you and I spoke back on January 7th, you told me the election was settled and noted you had not used the word ‘fraud.’ But, you did reference questionable research suggesting 140,000 ineligible voters cast ballots in one Georgia county. You voted to certify Arizona’s electoral college results but have since backed the audit there that the local Republicans call a ‘sham.’ So, what do you say to those -- like Cheney specifically -- who suggest you are complicit in spreading misinformation and are trying to have it both ways?

Rep. Elise Stefanik: First of all, I think the constitutional issues and constitutional questions are very valid when it comes to the 2020 elections. When it comes to audits, I think audits are a good thing. I think that transparency is a good thing for the American people.

Kyle Midura: Given some of the questions that have come up about the process in Arizona, lack of transparency, a partisan outfit doing the audit, do you believe that the results that might come out of that would truly provide more transparency?

Rep. Elise Stefanik: Absolutely, they would provide more transparency and it would also allow legislatures to make those changes to strengthen election systems. Joe Biden is president but there are election irregularities that need to be addressed from 2020.

It’s been widely reported that Stefanik is telling colleagues she does not want to remain conference chairwoman beyond 2022. Asked if that’s the case, Stefanik said she’ll evaluate whether she wants to keep the job after the midterm elections.

Watch Kyle’s full interview with Stefanik below.

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