Elise Marie Stefanik (/stəˈfɑːnɪk/; born July 2, 1984) is an American businesswoman and politician serving as the U.S. representative for New York's 21st congressional district since 2015. As chair of the House Republican Conference since 2021, she is the third-ranking House Republican.
Elise Marie Stefanik was born in Albany, New York, on July 2, 1984, to Melanie and Ken Stefanik. Her parents own Premium Plywood Products, a wholesale plywood distributor based in Guilderland Center. She is of Czech and Italian descent.
In October 1998, when she was 14, Stefanik was featured in a Times Union profile about U.S. Senator Al D'Amato. In the article she is quoted saying, "I support the Republican view, especially his". Stefanik first considered a career in public service and policy in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Stefanik graduated from the Albany Academy for Girls and enrolled at Harvard College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government in 2006. She was elected vice president of the Harvard Institute of Politics in 2004. At Harvard, she received an honorable mention for the Women's Leadership Award.
After graduating from Harvard, she joined the Bush administration, working as staff for the Domestic Policy Council. Stefanik later worked in the office of the White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. In 2009, she founded the blog American Maggie, named after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, providing a platform for "conservative and Republican women" to promote their views on politics and policy.
In August 2013, Stefanik declared her candidacy in the 2014 election for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 21st congressional district. The district had been in Republican hands for 100 years, before Democrat Bill Owens was elected to represent it in a 2009 special election. In January 2014, Owens announced that he would not seek reelection. Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party nominee in 2009, endorsed Stefanik.
She helped prepare the Republican platform in 2012, served as director of new media for Tim Pawlenty's presidential exploratory committee and worked at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Foreign Policy Initiative. Stefanik managed Representative Paul Ryan's debate preparation for the 2012 presidential debates. After Romney and Ryan lost the 2012 presidential election, she returned to upstate New York and joined her parents' business.
A member of the Republican Party, Stefanik's district covers most of the North Country, as well as most of the Adirondacks. It also includes some of the outer suburbs of Utica and the Capital District. Upon her first House election in 2014, Stefanik, aged 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Initially elected as a moderate, Stefanik later moved farther to the right and became a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, prominently defending him during his 2019 impeachment amid the Trump–Ukraine scandal. She supported Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, objecting to Pennsylvania's electoral votes after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. On the day a House investigation into the attack began, Stefanik asserted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was responsible for the attack.
Stefanik has long advocated for empowering women in the Republican Party and has influenced the party's culture to prioritize electing more women. After her election in 2014, Stefanik named Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as a major influence on her decision to run for Congress.
After the 2012 election, Stefanik bought a home in Willsboro, a suburb of Plattsburgh; her parents had owned a vacation home in Willsboro for many years. By April 2014, she owned a minority interest in a townhouse near Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C., valued at $1.3 million. On August 19, 2017, in Saratoga Springs, Stefanik married Matthew Manda, who works in marketing and communications. In December 2018, Stefanik and Manda moved to Schuylerville, a suburb of the Capital District. Their first child, Samuel, was born on August 27, 2021. Stefanik is a Roman Catholic.
Stefanik was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa in 2015 as an honoris causa initiate at SUNY Plattsburgh. In 2020, Fortune magazine included Stefanik in its "40 Under 40" listing in the "Government and Politics" category.
In January 2015, Stefanik was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee. The freshman representatives of the 114th Congress elected her to serve as the Freshman Representative to the Policy Committee. In February 2015, she was appointed vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Readiness. She was invited to join the Senior Advisory Committee at the Harvard Institute of Politics shortly after her election. She was removed from the committee in 2021 following her objection to Pennsylvania's electoral votes after the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
In a July 2015 Washington Times profile, Jacqueline Klimas noted that Stefanik was the only freshman on that year's conference committee for the defense policy bill, a position accorded to her "because of her extensive experience in foreign policy— working in the George W. Bush administration, prepping Rep. Paul Ryan for his vice presidential debates, and listening to commanders at Fort Drum in her home district". Jack Collens, a political science professor at Siena College, told Klimas that Stefanik's prize committee position signaled that party leaders wanted Stefanik to be part of "the next generation of Republican leaders".
Stefanik ran for reelection in 2016. Stefanik supported Donald Trump for president after he won the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, gradually becoming more open in her support as the campaign continued. She said his comments featured in the Access Hollywood tape were "wrong" but did not withdraw her endorsement of him.
In 2017, Stefanik co-sponsored the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act in the 115th Congress—legislation that, among other things, would eliminate the genetic privacy protections of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 and allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and let employers see that genetic and other health information. The American Society of Human Genetics opposes the bill.
In 2017, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton endorsed Stefanik for reelection, lauding her work on the House Armed Services Committee. She was reelected with 56% of the vote to Democratic nominee Tedra Cobb's 42% and Green Party nominee Lynn Kahn's 1.5%.
In January 2017, Stefanik joined the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, an apparent indication of "a moderate stance on climate change issues".
On January 11, 2017, Stefanik announced that she had been elected co-chair of the Tuesday Group, "a caucus of ... moderate House Republicans from across the country".
On May 4, 2017, Stefanik voted on party lines in favor of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and passing the House Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act.
In November 2017, Stefanik voted for the Championing Healthy Kids Act, which would provide a five-year extension to the Children's Health Insurance Program.
After the Federal Communications Commission decided to repeal Obama-era net neutrality in December 2017, Stefanik urged her congressional colleagues to pass legislation restoring the policy.
On December 19, 2017, Stefanik voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In a December 18 Facebook post, she wrote, "The final bill does not adequately protect the state and local tax deduction that so many in our district and across New York rely on ... New York is one of the highest taxed states in the country, and families here rely on this important deduction to make ends meet."
In September 2018, Stefanik, Seth Moulton and Dan Donovan co-sponsored the Cyber Ready Workforce Act advanced by Jacky Rosen. The legislation would create a grant program within the Department of Labor to "create, implement, and expand registered apprenticeships" in cybersecurity. It aims to offer certifications and connect participants with businesses, in order to "boost the number" of workers for federal jobs in that field.
Stefanik led recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in the 2018 House elections; among 13 Republican women elected to the House, only one was newly elected. In December 2018, Stefanik announced she would leave the NRCC to create a "leadership PAC" dedicated to recruiting Republican women to run for office. This group, named Elevate PAC (E-PAC), announced in an October 22 press conference that it had partially funded the primary campaigns of 11 Republican women from various states. In the 2020 House elections, 18 of the 30 women endorsed by Stefanik's E-PAC were elected.
Stefanik opposes abortion, but says the GOP should be more understanding of other positions on the issue. She opposes taxpayer funding for abortion, and supports requiring that health insurance plans disclose whether they cover abortion. In 2019, The National Right to Life Committee, a political action committee (PAC) opposed to legal abortion, gave Stefanik a 71% rating, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, a PAC that supports legal abortion, gave her a 28% rating. She joined her party in supporting H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act of 2017.
On March 26, 2019, Stefanik was one of 14 Republicans to vote with all House Democrats to override Trump's veto of a measure unwinding the latter's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.
On September 25, 2019, Stefanik announced that she did not support the impeachment of President Trump. During the November 2019 hearings, in which Congress gathered evidence and heard witness testimony in relation to the impeachment inquiry, Stefanik emerged as a key defender of Trump. During a November 15 hearing, intelligence committee ranking member Devin Nunes attempted to yield part of his allotted witness questioning time to Stefanik, but was ruled out of order by committee chairman Adam Schiff. Stefanik accused Schiff of "making up the rules as he goes" and of preventing Republican committee members from controlling their time to question witnesses. Nunes and Stefanik were violating the procedural rules that were established by an October House vote, and Schiff cited the rule to them. The rule Schiff cited authorized only Schiff and Nunes, or their counsels, to ask questions during the first 45 minutes of each party's questions for witnesses. The incident created a controversy in which Stefanik and others, including Trump, accused Schiff of "gagging" her. The Washington Post and other sources characterized the incident as a "stunt" to portray Schiff as unfair.
After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and Trump refused to concede while making false claims of fraud, Stefanik aided Trump in his efforts to overturn the election results. She also made false claims of fraud, saying among other things that "more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters" in Fulton County, Georgia. She also expressed "concerns" about Dominion Voting Systems, the subject of numerous false right-wing conspiracy theories. In December 2020, Stefanik supported the lawsuit Texas v. Pennsylvania, an attempt to reverse Trump's loss by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to reject certified results in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. After a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Stefanik condemned the violence but rejected the idea that Trump was at fault. She has promoted conspiracy theories about a "stolen election", and just hours after the invasion of the Capitol, she voted against accepting Pennsylvania's electoral votes in the 2020 election. Later in January, she expressed opposition to impeaching Trump over his alleged role in inciting the storming of the Capitol. She voted against the second impeachment on January 13.
In 2021, Stefanik voted against the DREAM Act, which nine Republicans voted for.
Stefanik was ranked the 19th-most bipartisan House member during the first session of the 115th United States Congress by the Bipartisan Index. The conservative advocacy group Heritage Action gave her a lifetime score of 48% but an 84% score since the 117th Congress began in January 2021, compared to an average of 95% among House Republicans during that session. The American Conservative Union gave Stefanik a lifetime rating of 44%. The conservative Club for Growth gave her a lifetime rating of 35%, lower than Squad member Ilhan Omar's.
In the 116th Congress, Stefanik was one of eight Republicans to vote in favor of the Equality Act. Later in the same Congress, she introduced a bill, The Fairness for All Act, that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people, while also including exceptions for religious groups and small businesses with religious foundations. In the 117th Congress, Stefanik voted against the Equality Act on February 25, 2021, despite supporting the same legislation in the previous Congress.
In May 2021, Stefanik described Trump as the "strongest supporter of any president when it comes to standing up for the Constitution."
Stefanik was elected chair of the House Republican Conference in May 2021 after incumbent Liz Cheney was removed.
On May 19, 2021, Stefanik and all other House Republican leaders voted against establishing a January 6 commission. 35 Republican House members and all 217 Democrats present voted to establish such a commission.
An analysis by FiveThirtyEight in early 2017 found Stefanik supporting Trump's position in 77.7% of House votes from the 115th to the 117th Congress.
In early 2021, after House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney supported Trump's second impeachment and refuted his claims that the election was stolen from him, some Republicans in Congress who supported Trump called for her removal. Stefanik was seen as a potential replacement for Cheney in case the Republican conference decided to oust Cheney from her position, despite Cheney's more conservative credentials and greater voting record in support of Trump's policies. On May 5, Stefanik received the endorsement of Trump and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise to replace Cheney as conference chair. During a May 6 appearance on a podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, Stefanik repeatedly emphasized the need for the Republican Party to work with Trump. Representative Chip Roy challenged Stefanik from the right in a bid to replace Cheney, but was denounced by Trump, who reiterated his endorsement of Stefanik. On May 14, Stefanik was elected House Republican Conference chair. After her victory, Stefanik thanked Trump, saying, "President Trump is the leader that [Republican voters] look to".