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Top House Republican says he will back Stefanik, not Trump critic Cheney, as conference chair

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives signaled on Sunday that he would vote to remove fellow Republican and Trump critic Liz Cheney as a party leader, saying he will back Representative Elise Stefanik instead.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Cheney had failed to display a united front against Democrats, in the latest sign that she will likely be ousted as the House Republican Conference chair in a vote expected on Wednesday.

Cheney has repeatedly criticized former President Donald Trump’s falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“We need to be united and that starts with leadership,” McCarthy told the Fox News program Sunday Morning Futures. “We want to be united moving forward, and I think that’s what will take place.”

Asked if he supports Stefanik for Cheney’s position, McCarthy replied: “Yes, I do.”

Stefanik, a 36-year-old from New York state whose status in the party rose after she aggressively defended Trump during congressional hearings ahead of his 2019 impeachment, is also supported by No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise and by Trump himself.

Cheney’s future as a Republican leader is expected to be decided on Wednesday in a secret ballot by the 212-member House Republican caucus.

Trump maintains that he lost the 2020 election to Democratic Joe Biden because of widespread election fraud, an assertion rejected by numerous courts and state and federal election officials.

His false claim has divided Republicans. Many party lawmakers believe they cannot retake control of the House and Senate in 2022 without his support, even though the party lost the House, the Senate and the White House during his presidency.

Cheney, 54, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has drawn the ire of many Republican by calling on them to reject Trump’s falsehoods and to become the “party of truth.”

(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Grant McCool)