One year ago on May 14, 2021, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York's 21st Congressional District was chosen by her Republican colleagues to chair the House GOP Conference after Rep. Liz Cheney (WY) was ousted from the post amid a dustup over her escalating criticism of Republicans rather than President Biden and Democrat lawmakers.
In the year since taking the helm as number three Republican in the House, Stefanik has made big changes in the way the conference treats their members and messages their priorities, welcomed a baby boy, Sam, with her husband Matt Manda, and led the charge to show the American people a distinct contrast between conservative and liberal policies ahead of the critical 2022 midterms.
Speaking exclusively with Townhall about her first year as GOP Conference Chair during a busy week filled with press conferences and new crises facing Americans, Stefanik singled out one achievement she's most proud of: becoming a first-time mom. Growing her family, Stefanik said, "has made me a more effective conference chair and a more effective member of Congress for my district," she added, invoking the formula shortage as another example of how she's better able to understand the crisis and empathize with its impact on American families.
"I was on top of this issue back in February when there was an announcement of the recall of the formula manufactured in Sturgis, Michigan, and the shutdown of that plant — I got no substantive response from the FDA," Stefanik recalled. "Here we are months later, this is a dire situation, and it's House Republicans who have been, you know, sounding the alarms on this crisis — who have reached out to the FDA, reached out to the president — saying what is your plan for cutting through the red tape of the FDA in dealing with this?"
The formula shortage is just one in a long string of crises facing the American people in the year since Stefanik became conference chair, but it was crises early on in Biden's tenure that made her seek a role in House GOP leadership.
"I felt it was important to make sure that House Republicans were focused on the issues that impact my constituents and impact the American people," Stefanik said of her decision to launch her bid to become chair of the Republican Conference.
"My predecessor left all of these issues on the table — there was no focus on inflation, no focus on the crime crisis, no focus on the border crisis — all the substantive issues that the American people care about, she was not focused on," Stefanik said of Cheney — though she never mentioned the embattled Wyoming at-large representative by name.
"If you look at the polling, when I took over in May of 2021, Joe Biden was +9 on the economy, he was only -5 on immigration, he was +4 on foreign policy," Stefanik reminded. "How was he on these three issues today? On the economy he's -22, on immigration he's -23, and on foreign policy he's -18. House Republicans hold a four-point lead over Democrats, which is a nine-point swing from where we were a year ago when Democrats had a five-point lead. Clearly, the proof is in the polling," she said of the public opinion reversal since changing how House Republicans message on issues facing the country. "Whereas, my predecessor was very focused on promoting herself and fighting and attacking the American people and attacking fellow Republicans," Stefanik reminded.
Rep. Stefanik's overhaul of strategy within the GOP conference revolved around three major goals she set for herself and her colleagues one year ago: a disciplined and unified message, going on offense every single day, and empowering all members to shine. But her offense-heavy messaging has not gone without criticism from the usual suspects in the mainstream media.
"I was ridiculed by The New York Times at one of my first press conferences as House Conference Chair for my 'crisis messaging,' for talking about the inflation crisis, the border crisis, the crime crisis, the supply chain crisis," Stefanik recalled. "The question from The New York Times reporter was, 'Well there are so many crises, the American people are going to be really confused with your messaging'. Turns out, we were talking about issues that the American people care about," Stefanik noted. "And as I said to The New York Times reporter, 'Thank you for highlighting the fact that this president has caused so many crises in so little time.'"
Even as the mainstream media turns a blind eye to Democrats' disarrayed leadership of the House, they continue to go after Stefanik and her GOP colleagues. Any tweet or mild disagreement can stir up a string of negative stories, ones that are quickly lapped up by Democrats seeking to change the message from Biden's crises. Stefanik anticipated that too, and her conference's unity — although tested over the last year — has weathered the storms better than Democrats.
"Don't take the bait from the mainstream left-wing media," Stefanik said of her guidance for the Republican Conference. "Don't take the bait," she reiterated. "First of all, they don't have the support of the American people — there's a reason why the mainstream media's ratings are in the toilet and are at a historic low — because the American people no longer trust the mainstream media."
"We tell our members stay disciplined, don't take the bait, and go on offense every single day," Stefanik explained. "Democrats want to do everything they can to pass the buck, but the reality is — and the American people know this — there is unified Democrat control right now. They have the Senate, the House, and the White House," she reminded. "It's really them projecting their own inability to govern," Stefanik said of House Democrats' work to stir up and amplify negative coverage about the Republican Conference. "They own these crises and they're going to be held accountable this November," she added of Democrats.
"The American people are smart — I've always said that — the voters in my district are smart, they know what's at stake in the election and I believe we're going to have a very big year for Republicans," Stefanik said turning to the future. "The American people — not just Republican voters, but independents and Democrats — are fed up by what they're seeing from, again, a Joe Biden who is just really an incompetent and inept president," she said.
Looking to November's midterms and beyond, Stefanik said she's "excited" for Republicans to "finally" have the chance to address the crises in the country and put legislation on the floor to secure the border, hold China accountable, and ensure oversight both for specific issues in her district and for the Biden administration as a whole. "There are many, many questions that the American people deserve answers to," Stefanik said. "Whether it's the Hunter Biden laptop facts or whether it's the politicization of the Department of Justice and targeting of parents," she — and her GOP colleagues – are ready to take action.
"We have to save our country, and when House Republicans earn — and we're going to work hard to earn this from as many voters as possible this November — we're going to send as many conservative bills to the president's desk as we possibly can," Stefanik said of the next Congress. "We're going to work day and night to address these crises," she pledged of the looming GOP takeover of the House. "Joe Biden will either work with us or he won't," Stefanik said. "I think it's most likely that he won't, but we will expose that for the American people to know once and for all as we're heading into the 2024 presidential elections."