What happened during the first hearing of the Biden impeachment inquiry

House Republicans held their first impeachment hearing into President Biden. The Republicans argue there is a real concern about the Biden family, but Democrats say it's an attempt to distract from the criminal charges against former President Trump. Amna Nawaz discussed the hearing and the legal basis for the impeachment inquiry with Frank Bowman.

White House responds to House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry against Biden

After House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed Republicans to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, the White House is urging a more aggressive pushback to the GOP and is dismissing the effort as "extreme politics at its worst." That description came from Ian Sams, a White House advisor working on congressional investigations. Sams joined Amna Nawaz to discuss the inquiry.

Rand Paul warns Republicans against falling into impeachment ‘trap’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is warning Republicans against falling into the “trap” of impeachment after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled earlier this week that the House could move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. 

“It’s not good for the republic to keep impeaching presidents and indicting presidents,” Paul said in an interview on Fox Business Network's “Mornings with Maria.”

“All this stuff is destructive,” he added. 

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night, McCarthy said the House GOP’s investigations into the Biden family’s foreign business activities are “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry,” but clarified no decision had been made. 

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Paul pushed back on that idea.

“The other side [Democrats] says, ‘Oh they want to, they’re for preserving democracy.’ They’re pitting everyone against each other and they’re destroying the fabric of our republic, so I think we have to be careful not to fall into the same trap,” Paul said. 

Former President Trump was impeached twice by a majority-Democratic House during his four-year term. Republicans in the Senate acquitted Trump in both instances. 

Paul is among several Republican lawmakers who have pushed back against McCarthy’s comments. That group also includes Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who called the remarks “impeachment theater” meant to distract from budget negotiations, and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who told reporters, “No one is seriously talking about impeachment.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks to a reporters as he arrives to the Capitol for a procedural vote regarding a nomination on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (Greg Nash)

In a statement exclusively obtained by The Hill, the White House said McCarthy’s suggestion is “a ridiculous, baseless stunt, intended to attack the President at a time when House Republicans should instead be joining the President to focus on the important issues facing the American people.” 

In his interview with Hannity, McCarthy accused Biden of using the “weaponization of government to benefit his family and deny Congress the ability to have oversight.”

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Republican skepticism over the Biden family’s foreign business activities was boosted last week when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) released an FBI form containing unverified allegations of corruption connected to Hunter Biden’s business with Ukrainian energy company Burisma. 

The White House has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated Monday that Biden was never in business with his son.

Morning Consult poll conducted June 22-24 found 30 percent of register voters believe it should be a “top priority” for Congress to investigate whether Biden should be impeached, including 11 percent of Democrats, 24 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. 

GOP divided on first impeachment target

The growing zeal among House Republicans to launch impeachment proceedings has hit an early snag: There's no agreement on which Biden administration figure to target.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) this week threw his support behind a possible impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Merrick Garland — just days after the GOP conference sparred internally over a resolution from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) to impeach President Biden.

And a possible Biden impeachment came on the heels of an announcement from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) that the panel would kick off the formal investigation of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas needed to proceed with an impeachment inquiry.

Since the GOP takeover of the House, much of the impeachment energy has been focused on Mayorkas, with disagreements over the border fueling several impeachment resolutions in the weeks after lawmakers were sworn in.

But a drop in border crossings in recent months has largely taken the issue out of the national headlines, while at the same time, new accusations surrounding the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation into Hunter Biden have heightened the GOP’s outrage at Garland. It was the latter issue that prompted this week’s surprise statement from McCarthy. 

“If the whistleblowers' allegations are true, this will be a significant part of a larger impeachment inquiry into Merrick Garland's weaponization of DOJ,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter.

In May and June alone, lawmakers introduced 11 different impeachment resolutions for top Biden officials, five of them sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Aside from Biden, Garland and Mayorkas, Greene also has her sights on FBI Director Christopher Wray and Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. 

But until recently, McCarthy in many respects had pumped the brakes on some of the conference’s loudest impeachment cheerleaders.

He’s repeatedly said impeachment can’t be seen as a political endeavor and, as recently as Friday, said that any efforts have “got to reach the constitutional level of impeachment.”

Mayorkas targeted initially 

In a trip to the border late last year, widely expected to be a warning shot that Republicans would kick off an impeachment of Mayorkas, McCarthy instead called for his resignation and signaled any plans to boot the secretary would be part of a lengthy process.

“If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate; every order, every action and every failure will determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said last November.

But he’s facing impatience from far-right members of the conference, many with hopes of playing a central role in any impeachment efforts, which would quickly devour the political oxygen in Washington and command the national media spotlight.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) who introduced the first Mayorkas impeachment resolution last year but trailed another such bill this year, said it's not clear when such a measure would move forward or whose name would be on it.

“I introduced mine first — and then I introduced it forth again. … I’ve probably ticked off the leadership too much for them to allow mine to be the one, to be the vehicle. But I still think mine is most comprehensive,” he said.

“I don't know if we'll introduce a new one or just try to amend this one as it moves forward. But I just think that more and more people are starting to come around to the necessity to impeach the guy.”

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), who introduced the first Mayorkas impeachment articles this year, would also like to be involved.

“I was the first one out of the gate, but I don't really care. You know, success has 1,000 fathers,” he said.

“I’d like to lead the effort, but even if I could just be a lieutenant of someone who does if it's not me, I’m perfectly content with that as well. Because we are a team — we're supposed to be, the 222 of us — and I definitely think he needs to be replaced.”

Border issues draw attention to Biden

The Mayorkas bills have been complicated by Boebert’s resolution, which House Republicans voted to refer to the House Homeland Security Committee, as well as House Judiciary, for consideration. 

Green has been steadfastly focused on Mayorkas, earlier this month laying out a five-phase plan for an investigation into the secretary. Those findings would be turned over to leaders of the Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who would then decide how to move forward.

Though Boebert’s resolution, like those focused on Mayorkas, deems impeachment a fitting response for what Republicans see as a mishandling the border, Democrats have dismissed the plan as trying to boot someone from office over a policy disagreement rather than high crimes and misdemeanors.

It also means a shift for the House Homeland Security Committee, which must now wrap Biden into an investigation that had been squarely focused on the effects of specific border policies carried out by Mayorkas's department. 

“We kicked off this five-phase investigation digging into what I believe is Mayorkas’s failures. We just started the ‘dereliction of duty’ phase a week ago. We've had a committee hearing, we've had two subcommittee hearings, we’re doing our transcribed interviews with all the sector chiefs and things like this,” Green told The Hill.

“Now, the House has obviously asked us to add Biden's actions to the stuff that we're looking into. We'll do that for sure.” 

Boebert’s resolution is just one of five pertaining to Biden, and it's not clear how quickly it may advance, if at all.

“I would hope that it would be this year — and very soon,” Boebert told reporters last week. 

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who also has a resolution to impeach Mayorkas, stressed that the founders intentionally set a high bar for its usage.

“I believe they should go through thorough and proper, vigorous debate to assigned committees,” he said. 

“The founders established the highest thresholds for impeachment, and intended it to be almost impossible to impeach a president and very difficult to impeach a secretary.”

Hunter Biden’s case takes over 

The border issues that would serve as the basis for either a Mayorkas or Biden impeachment have taken a back seat recently to news that Hunter Biden agreed to a plea deal in connection with an investigation into his failure to pay taxes.

The crux of the matter for the GOP is a whistleblower complaint to the House Ways and Means Committee, where IRS investigator Gary Shapley claimed the investigation was slow-walked by the office of U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee assigned to the matter under the former president.

Shapley said Weiss’s office relayed they were told they could not bring charges in D.C., where he believes the strongest case could be had regarding Hunter Biden’s tax evasion. He alleged that Graves, the U.S. attorney for D.C., would not allow Weiss to bring charges in his district.

Weiss, Garland and Graves have all countered Shapley’s testimony.

“I want to make clear that, as the Attorney General has stated, I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges,” Weiss told House Judiciary members in a June letter.

Garland went further, saying critiques on the Hunter Biden investigation undermined faith in the department.

“I certainly understand that some have chosen to attack the integrity of the Justice Department, and its components, and its employees, by claiming that we do not treat like cases alike. This constitutes an attack on an institution that is essential to American democracy and essential to the safety of the American people. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Garland said Friday.

“You've all heard me say many times that we make our cases based on the facts and the law. These are not just words. These are what we live by.” 

Mike Lillis contributed.

House fails to overturn Biden veto in effort to cancel student debt relief

House Republicans were not able to convince the two-thirds majority they needed to overturn President Biden’s veto of a resolution that would have shot down his proposal to cancel up to $20,000 of a borrower's student debt. 

The 221-206 vote on attempt to overturn Biden's veto of a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to end the president’s debt relief plan is officially dead in the water. Beating Biden’s veto would have required two-thirds support in the House and the Senate — both of which passed the original resolution.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office found Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan was subject to the CRA, which lets Congress suspend actions taken by the president. 

Republicans jumped on the opportunity, quickly introducing a CRA measure in the House attempting to stop the student debt relief.

More Education coverage from The Hill

In May, the House passed the resolution 218-203, with the support of all Republicans and two Democrats, Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.). 

Shortly after, the Senate passed the resolution 52-46, with Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), joining Republicans in striking down the plan. 

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“Let me make something really clear: I’m never going to apologize for helping working and middle-class Americans as they recover from this pandemic, never,” Biden said when he signed the veto on the resolution.

Biden’s student debt relief plan, however, still faces a significant hurdle: the conservative-majority Supreme Court, which may rule on the proposal as early as Thursday.

House Republicans find their groove as challenges loom

After a rocky start to their new majority, House Republicans have gotten in a groove, notching wins that squeeze Democrats and President Biden. But as they approach 100 days in power, with debt ceiling negotiations and major legislation on the horizon, the challenge will be to keep the conference in harmony.

The drawn-out election of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in January had observers wondering whether the caucus could get agreement on major issues with a five-seat majority. Pushback from moderates led to a scramble to get enough votes to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and forced a delay on a border and immigration bill that had been expected to have an early floor vote.

In the last several weeks, though, the House GOP notched some victories in sending legislation to Biden and dividing Democrats.

Biden reversed his position to back a disapproval of D.C. crime legislation — blindsiding House Democrats. The president is also expected to issue his first veto over a House GOP-led measure to nullify a federal rule over considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in investments.

In committee probes, House Oversight Committee Republicans received long-sought access to the Treasury Department suspicious activity reports concerning businesses connected to Biden’s family members. And Border Patrol chief Raúl Ortiz said at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing that the U.S. does not have “operational control” of the southern border, breaking with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and boosting House GOP arguments that could build a foundation for impeachment of the secretary.

“We've had some big wins,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.). “And it's all rooted in fighting for the families who are struggling and following through on our promises. We ran on a very specific agenda. We talked about addressing inflation and lowering energy costs and confronting crime in communities, and securing the border, and having a parent's Bill of Rights.”

“Our conference is very unified right now,” Scalise added.

Speaker race connected caucus

Members say that as messy as the Speaker race was at the time, it helped to build relationships across factions of the conference. 

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a McCarthy ally who was deeply involved in negotiations during that saga, told The Hill that he did not know hardline Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) very well beforehand. But now, he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for him. 

“It was a healthy exercise of talking to each other and getting to know each other and build more trust,” Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said of the Speaker election. “The trust we built there is going to continue to pay dividends for us this year.”

Still, high-profile controversies have overshadowed some of the House GOP’s successes. 

McCarthy gave Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to Capitol security footage from Jan. 6, 2021, and Carlson’s use of it to portray the riot as “mostly peaceful chaos” sparked bipartisan outrage. The Speaker has declined to support removing Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) from office over his admitted lies and questions about his finances until investigations into him are complete, breaking with a number of Santos’s House GOP colleagues in New York.

And major legislative issues coming up could test the House GOP’s harmony.

“We've got some really, really challenging things ahead, whether it's [the Federal Aviation Administration funding] bill, the farm bill, FISA authorization – we obviously have the budget and debt ceiling things that are on the horizon,” Graves said. “But I'm confident that we've got a good foundation and we can continue working through these issues with some of these members.”

Budget, debt limit loom large

House Republicans gathered Sunday to start strategizing about what comes next at their annual issues conference in Orlando, Fla., which runs through Tuesday.

One of the top items is certain to be debt limit negotiations. Biden has called on the House GOP to release their budget before engaging in negotiations, but McCarthy has said the White House’s delay in releasing a budget created a domino effect.

The House Freedom Caucus, though, recently released a blueprint for budget cuts as a condition for considering a vote to raise the debt ceiling. While it is likelier to be more aggressive than the House GOP Budget Committee’s eventual plan, the hardline group indicated it is open to negotiation

“One of the big keys is to have that open channel of communication and have all voices heard and for that to be sincere, not just window dressing, but for it to be real,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the House Freedom Caucus. “I know I don't always get my way, but I gotta have a say. And I think if everybody feels like they're given a fair shake, and you know, this is the best thing that we can get under the circumstances, that goes a long way to bringing people on board.”

Those open channels of communication – which include regular meetings with McCarthy and the heads of the caucuses – marks a change from previous GOP Speakers, Perry said.

Energy bill brings a test

Later this month, Republicans will bring a vote on their first major legislative package that McCarthy designated as  H.R. 1: The Lower Energy Costs Act, a sweeping bill led by Scalise aimed at boosting energy production and streamlining the permitting process.

Republicans see boosting energy production as widely popular in the GOP, and one that touches on a number of other priorities. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, but could mark a starting point in negotiations on potential permitting reform.

“Energy has been at the heart of a lot of the conversations families have been having about the high cost of everything, from inflation to things at the grocery store,” Scalise said.

But even though the issue is popular, the package will test party unity, with members saying there is still work to be done to usher it across the finish line in a slim majority.

“As with most big bills, you're threading a needle. You've got issues all over the place on the right on the left, that you've got to deal with,” Graves said. “So there are still ongoing conversations with a number of folks, making sure that we're striking that right balance.”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

Partisan rift widens on immigration policy, as seen in two House hearings 

Republicans and Democrats kicked off the first major immigration policy meetings of the new Congress at odds, with little agreement on even the most basic facts on the issue.

The parties have now faced off on the legislative stage twice, in hearings convened by the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Accountability committees. They’ve accomplished little more than to highlight the growing partisan split, despite a plea to “find a solution" from the El Paso Border Patrol sector chief.

The Judiciary Committee, led by GOP firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), hosted the more combative hearing, focusing on an alleged correlation between immigration and fentanyl trafficking and accusing the Biden administration of purposely dismantling border security.

"Make no mistake, the Biden administration is carrying out its plan," said Jordan in his opening remarks last week.

"We all heard [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas, who sat in front of this committee and said, 'we are executing our plan on the border.' And we all heard President Biden say, 'we're trying to make it easier for people to get here.' Well, they're certainly succeeding in that," added Jordan.

Tuesday’s Oversight hearing led by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), which featured two Border Patrol sector chiefs as witnesses, was comparatively phlegmatic, though Democrats still voiced their anger at the GOP's handling of the subject matter.

"The extreme MAGA forces in the Republican Party have chosen to abandon the pro-immigration stance of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan and instead spread fear about a 'foreign invasion,' paranoia about the racist and antisemitic 'Great Replacement' mythology, and disinformation about fentanyl — the vast majority of which is brought into our country by American smugglers working for the international drug cartels and traveling through lawful ports of entry," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

"I ardently hope today’s hearing will become a chance to search for bipartisan agreement rather than another missed opportunity. … Turning this into more bad political theater will just extend the long pattern of failure on this question."

But Raskin's hopes for bipartisanship were quickly quashed.

Following Comer and Raskin's opening remarks, Comer took the microphone to complain about a White House memo released early Tuesday that said, "House Republicans are more interested in staging political stunts than on rolling up their sleeves to work with President Biden and Democrats in Congress," and a tweet from the Oversight Democrats wishing, "Good morning and good luck to everyone except @GOPoversight members who are using today's hearing to amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories instead of a comprehensive solution to protect our borders and strengthen our immigration system."

"I mean, really? I don't even know what to say about that," said Comer, before reminding Democrats that House rules prohibit personal attacks between members.

For the next five hours, Oversight members essentially replicated the bifurcated proceedings of a week prior at the Judiciary Committee.

At the heart of the rift, apparent in both hearings, is a disagreement over whether the fentanyl crisis, legal immigration, asylum and border security should be treated as separate issues, or whether a border crackdown would resolve them all.

But the witnesses were a key distinction between the two hearings.

Comer invited two active duty border security professionals, Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Agent Gloria Chavez and Tucson Sector Chief Agent John Modlin, both of whom fielded questions from Republicans and Democrats alike on a variety of border-related issues.

“If I wanted to have a big political hearing that was full of red meat, we would have victims’ families that lost their lives to fentanyl. We would have people that have been human trafficked. But we’re not. We just asked four Border Patrol bosses," Comer told attendants at a National Press Club event last month.

Jordan took the "red meat" approach, calling on Brandon Dunn, a father whose son died from a fentanyl overdose and the founder of Forever 15 Project, an organization to raise awareness of the dangers of the drug.

The Ohio Republican also called on Cochise County, Ariz., Sheriff Mark Dannels and Dale Lynn Carruthers, county judge of Terrell County, Texas (though Carruthers was unable to attend because of weather conditions).

Advocates were heavily critical of Jordan's choice of Dannels and Carruthers as witnesses, pointing to Dannels's frequent appearances on right-wing media and alleged connections to immigration restrictionist groups.

Heidi Beirich, an expert in American and European right-wing groups and co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said both Dannels and Carruthers had embraced the rhetoric of an "invasion" at the southern border.

"The fact that Daniels and Carruthers have engaged in this racist rhetoric about immigrants and their ties to hate and other extremist groups disqualify them from any productive discussions on things related to immigration," said Beirich.

Scores of Democrats called out the GOP's "invasion" rhetoric as going too far, though most Republicans avoided the word, and Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) defended its use.

"The definition of an invasion is an incursion by a large number of people or things into a place or sphere of activity,” he said, repeating claims that enough fentanyl has entered the U.S. to “kill every American five times.”

"I would consider that to be the direct definition of the word invasion,” Hunt said.

But Democrats largely countered that point with Customs and Border Protection data that shows more than 90 percent of fentanyl enters the United States through legal ports of entry.

"This hearing isn't about border security or solving our opioid crisis. It isn't even facts. What it's about is painting immigrants as villains in order for my colleagues to further their anti-immigrant agenda," said Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.).

"Republicans are trying to rewrite history to hide their extremist agenda from the American people," he added. "This extreme wing is trying to say that immigrants are trafficking fentanyl across an unchecked border but we know that that's not true. Why? Because it happens at the ports of entry by U.S. citizens, not mainly by asylum seekers."

The partisan split on immigration policy prescriptions is nothing new.

"This is just exactly the kind of finger-pointing rather than serious efforts of problem solving, and political theater rather than problem solving that we're likely to see because the Congress has abdicated its role for decades now, where immigration – and updating immigration laws and capabilities – are concerned," said Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service who now leads the Migration Policy Institute's U.S. Immigration Policy Program.

But the rift has grown in scope and in political impact.

"​​The worldview seems so dichotomous. How in the world do we bridge a gap?" said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who shortly after the Judiciary hearing led a group calling for the impeachment of Mayorkas.

Democrats are convinced the GOP's hard line is just political grandstanding.

"It's the presidential election starting now. Immigration is the issue. It's an effective one that continues to be used over and over. It will be ugly," said Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.).

Despite the distance between the two parties, the Border Patrol officers at Tuesday’s hearing, who largely relayed a landscape of officers under-resourced compared with smugglers and cartels, pleaded for some kind of legislative action.

"I think we really just need to embrace change, good change, so that we reform our immigration law and have that balance between immigration and border security and get serious about that. We need to find a solution," said Chavez, the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector chief.

Emily Brooks contributed.

Elise Stefanik to seek second term as House GOP chair, not whip

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) announced that she will seek another term as House Republican Conference chair on Tuesday, ending months of speculation that she might seek the position of House majority whip if Republicans win control of the chamber.

“For the next 56 days, I’m laser-focused on working to ensure we earn a historic Republican Majority. I am proud to have unified the entire Republican Conference around our country in crisis message and shattered fundraising records as House GOP Conference Chair raising over $10M for candidates and committees this cycle. With the broad support of NY21 and my House GOP colleagues, I intend to run for Conference Chair in the next Congress,” Stefanik said in a statement on Tuesday.

Stefanik had long held her cards close to the vest on her plans for next year, often saying that she was focused on winning back the majority. 

Her announcement of her intention to seek a second term as House GOP chair came shortly after news leaked that Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) planned to host an event on Thursday to formally launch his own bid, which his office confirmed to The Hill.

Donalds, one of only two Black House Republicans in the current Congress, told The Hill Tuesday evening that he is still running for Chair despite Stefanik's announcement.

"If you're going to ask Republicans who's the best messenger on our conference, I think I'm one of the best there," Donalds said. "As a conservative who has worked on policy at the state level, now here, I think I have the necessary tools to help our conference in the next evolution after the November elections."

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), another first-term member who was reported to be interested in the conference chair position if Stefanik did not run again, threw her support behind Stefanik.

“@RepStefanik has done an incredible job as our Conference chair and I’m proud to be on her team and support her. We will continue to work together to take back the House in November and get our country back on the right track,” Hinson said in a tweet responding to news that Stefanik plans to run again.

So did Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, who had also been reported as a potential pick for chair if Stefanik did not run.

“Serving as Vice Chairman of House Republicans alongside Chairwoman Stefanik has been one of the great highlights of my time in Congress. I look forward to continuing our work together to retake the House majority this fall by promoting the Republican agenda, and I fully support her bid to serve another term as Conference Chair,” Johnson said in a statement.

Stefanik first took over the position, tasked with leading the House Republican message, in May 2021 after the conference ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the position over her vocal criticism of former President Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Stefanik, in contrast, has been a staunch defender and ally of Trump and first gained prominence as part of Trump's defense team during his first impeachment in 2020. She has proudly adopted the label of “ultra-MAGA” as Democrats and President Biden argue that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy.

After the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month, she called the episode a “dark day in American history” and accused the Biden administration of “weaponizing this department against their political opponents.” 

If Republicans win back the House and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) becomes Speaker and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) moves up to the position of majority leader, that leaves open the No. 3 position of House majority whip.

Stefanik’s high profile and status as the No. 3 House Republican led to speculation about whether she would climb up the leadership ladder, but she would have joined a crowded field of contenders for the whip position.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has been careful not to formally launch a bid yet.

“There's nothing to run for until you win. I'm focusing on Nov. 8,” he told The Hill in an interview last week when asked about the whip race.

Reps. Drew Ferguson, currently the chief deputy whip, is also in the mix as a potential contender for the position, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), current chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is also weighing a run for whip.

One senior Republican source argued that the reaction to Stefanik's announcement showed her strength as a politician.

“It took Stefanik less than one hour to lock down the votes of the entire leadership team and 2/3 of the entire conference. And she hasn’t even hit the floor yet,” the source said.

Spokespeople for McCarthy and Emmer confirmed that they will each support Stefanik for the position, while one for Scalise did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

McCarthy brushed off the stakes of a match-up between Stefanik and Donalds.

"I don't think it'll be a race," McCarthy told reporters Tuesday evening. "Elise has done an excellent job and will continue to be Conference Chair."

At the time of her election in March 2021, Stefanik garnered criticism from some in the hard-line House Freedom Caucus for not having a conservative enough voting record. But a year into her tenure, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the caucus's former chairman, said she has been a “step up” from Cheney.

Stefanik has aimed to show influence in other House GOP races. 

She endorsed controversial businessman Carl Paladino in the race to represent New York’s 23rd District when Rep. Chris Jacobs (R) abruptly ended his reelection bid over backlash to his support for an assault weapons ban.

Paladino, who has apologized for once inadvertently emailing racist remarks about former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama to a local outlet, lost that primary race last month to New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy. 

And in the Republican primary for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, she endorsed her 25-year-old former aide Karoline Leavitt while McCarthy and Scalise backed Matt Mowers, a former Trump appointee in the State Department.

Updated 7:47 p.m.