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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Before last week, if you were to mention the name Elise Stefanik, you would in all likelihood be met with a blank stare and a, “Who?” in reply.
What a difference a week makes.
Rep. Stefanik may be a young, junior member of the House Intelligence Committee, but she clearly has embraced her new role as defender of Donald Trump with enthusiasm.
She may be one of the most junior members of the committee, but Stefanik has not been shy this week in mixing it up with committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif) during both of the public impeachment hearings thus far.
Early in Wednesday’s hearing with two State Department officials, Stefanik interrupted Schiff to ask whether Democrats would be “prohibiting witnesses from answering members’ questions as you have in the closed-door depositions.”
Then, Friday, Stefanik tangled with Schiff over being recognized to address the witness, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
These encounters have elevated Stefanik to become the new Republican rock star.
Stefanik makes for an unusual Republican attack dog. When first elected to the House in 2014, Stefanik, then aged 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time.
She’s not exactly always fallen into Trump’s line, either. Stefanik voted against the 2017 Republican tax bill, she backed equal rights for LGBT Americans and supported an effort to grant legal status to young undocumented immigrants.
It begs the question how the folks back home in her upstate New York district will take this new look for their young congresswoman.
While, yes, the district did go for Trump in 2016, overall it’s very much a swing district having supported Democrats both for president before that as well as Democrats as their congressional representative before Stefanik.
Democrat Tedra Cobb, who lost to Stefanik in last year’s election but is looking for a rematch next year, definitely wants to make an issue out of Stefanik’s defense of Trump. She used it Friday as a fundraising tool on Twitter Friday.
.@RepStefanik’s partisan political theatre is beneath the dignity of her office. She skipped several important private hearings— now with the cameras on, she has repeatedly attempted to derail the public hearings. Stefanik should take her oath to the Constitution seriously. #NY21
— Tedra Cobb for Congress (@TedraCobb) November 15, 2019
If her bulldog role in defending Trump in impeachment does ultimately cost Stefanik her seat next year, she won’t be the first lawmaker of either party to get caught up in the partisanship of Capitol Hill and have lost touch with the voters back home.
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