Emmer Drops Speaker Bid After Right Wing Withholds Support

October 24, 2023 by Dan McCue
Emmer Drops Speaker Bid After Right Wing Withholds Support
The doors behind which the hopes of Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., to be next speaker unraveled. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., dropped his bid to be the next speaker of the House on Tuesday, just hours after he narrowly won his party’s nomination in a secret vote of the House Republican Conference.

Meeting behind closed doors in the Ways and Means Committee Room in the Longworth House Office Building, members of the conference engaged in five rounds of voting before Emmer secured a 117-97 victory over right-wing rival Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La. 

But that victory proved ephemeral when 25 members of the conference immediately declared that they would not vote for Emmer on the floor. 

Most of them had either voted for Johnson or an alternative candidate. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, who voted “present” later told reporters he didn’t think there was any way Emmer would get the additional 100 votes he needed to reach 217 and secure the gavel.

Nehls also said if the vote on Emmer’s nomination reached the floor and the conference designee didn’t win outright, he would immediately nominate former President Donald Trump to be the next speaker.

“We threw our all-stars out there, the top three members of our party, the majority leader, the majority whip, Jim Jordan, eight others now, and they’ve all been rejected,” Nehls said.

“What are we going to do, just go down and put everybody’s name in a damn bag?” he continued. “We are back where we started.”

Nehls did say he would vote for Emmer if the majority whip somehow eked out 216 votes, but he said to his mind the only choice that made sense would be Trump.

“Who else could get to 217 votes? Is there anybody out there who can get 217 votes? That’s why I continue to say Donald J. Trump is the right choice for the job,” he said.

Meanwhile Emmer was doing everything he could to change the holdouts’ minds, and for a short time the one-on-one meetings seemed to be having an effect.

Emerging from the committee room shortly after 1 p.m., Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told reporters Emmer had managed to gain the support of at least five of the dissenters.

“There are three microphones set up in the conference room and each of those with concerns about Tom are getting to get up and have a conversation with him about their differences,” Buck said.

“In the case of those who decided to support him, they got an explanation from him regarding their issues of concern and were satisfied with his answers,” Buck said.

Many of the conservatives who opposed Emmer did so because of his support of a same-sex marriage initiative that they saw as an affront to religious rights.

Then there are the so-called MAGA Republicans who hold a litany of grievances against Emmer.

These include, among other things, his voting to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election; his encouraging Republican candidates to distance themselves from Trump during the 2022 midterms, and his failure to endorse Trump’s 2024 presidential primary campaign.

Finally, there were a small number of House Republicans who simply had “personal issues” with Emmer, according to ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

But the biggest blow to Emmer’s brief moment as his conference’s choice appeared to come from Trump himself, who took to his Truth Social social media platform during a break in his civil fraud trial in New York, to blast the prospective speaker of the House.

“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors,” Trump wrote. “RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them. 

“He never respected the Power of a Trump Endorsement, or the breadth and scope of MAGA — MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! He fought me all the way, and actually spent more time defending Ilhan Omar, than he did me,” the former president continued.

“He is totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters. I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure?” Trump said. “Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win? The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that’s not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!”

Not long after that post went live, two representatives, Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., who had supported Emmer earlier in the day, withdrew their support.

After that, the steady stream away from Emmer became something of a waterfall of lost support.

Emmer’s abrupt exit has left the search for a new speaker in something of a shambles, and House Republicans appear no closer to finding a leader and ending the paralysis that has seized the chamber than they were three weeks ago when McCarthy was tossed to the curb.

“The left flank of our conference blocked Speaker-designee Jim Jordan then nominated the single most liberal member of leadership to continue business as usual in Washington,” said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who had once been Emmer’s rival for the majority whip post, in a written statement.

“They are holding our conference hostage and pushing Republicans to betray our voters and abandon our promises to the American people,” Banks said.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the majority leader when the Democrats controlled the House, told reporters on Tuesday that his conference stands ready to support a bipartisan resolution to the crisis on Capitol Hill.

He said, however, the Democrats would have some conditions: namely that the Republicans renounce their claims the 2020 election was somehow stolen from Trump, that they drop their impeachment efforts against President Joe Biden, and that they agree to support additional funding for Ukraine.

But the Republicans don’t seem receptive to such offers.

Asked if the House GOP conference might be ready to work across the aisle with Democrats, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., had a one-word answer for reporters.

“No,” she said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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