House GOP Nominates Tom Emmer For Speaker
U.S. House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) speaks to reporters as he leaves a House Republican candidates forum where congressmen who are running for Speaker of the House presented their platforms in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on October 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Republicans selected House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) on Tuesday to be their third nominee for speaker three weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was voted out of the role.

Emmer secured the majority in the fifth secret ballot in a face-off against Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), who is the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference. A House floor vote for the speakership could happen as early as later on Tuesday. Because Republicans have a narrow majority in the House, Emmer can only afford to lose a handful of GOP votes if all Democrats oppose his bid.

Seven lawmakers faced off across several rounds of voting, including Reps. Emmer, Johnson, Jack Bergman (R-MI), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Kevin Hern (R-OK), Austin Scott (R-GA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX). The candidate with the least amount of votes was dropped following each of the first four ballots. Sessions was dropped after the first round, Bergman after the second, and Scott after the third. Hern came in last and dropped out following the fourth vote while Donalds bowed out, setting up Emmer and Johnson to go head-to-head in ballot No. 5.

Emmer led the field across every ballot but did not clinch the majority until the last one. The final tally showed Emmer with 117 votes and Johnson with 97.

A follow-up GOP conference vote to see if Emmer would have enough support in a House floor vote revealed more than two dozen holdouts, signaling that Emmer lacks the 217 votes or a simple majority within his own party to win the speakership, though he could still convince skeptical Republicans to back his candidacy.

Another contender, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), bowed out before the voting got underway on Tuesday, saying in a statement, “If withdrawing my name can help expedite that process even a little, then I will gladly step aside.” A ninth candidate, Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), withdrew from the race during a candidate forum on Monday night.

There had been scrutiny on the voting record of each candidate, including when it came to certifying the results of the 2020 election. Emmer stood out as the only candidate who voted last year to pass a bill that codified same-sex marriage protections. Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) told CNN that he was “very concerned” about the vote and said there was no way he would vote for Emmer.

All the candidates signed a “unity pledge” in which members vowed to support the nominee, according to Rep. Mike Flood (R-NE), though not every lawmaker in the GOP conference supported the idea. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) reportedly suggested members should consider lowering the House floor vote threshold from a majority to a plurality to win the speakership if a Republican nominee cannot muster enough support to secure the gavel.

The GOP-led House of Representatives has been without a speaker for about 21 days since eight Republicans joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy in a no-confidence vote. The vacuum has left the chamber in limbo with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) serving as speaker pro tempore and no movement on pressing issues, such as reaching a deal to avert a government shutdown that could happen as early as mid-November.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who won the GOP nomination in a face-off against Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), ended his candidacy before a House floor vote could happen as he faced opposition from a small group of Republicans. Jordan then won the nomination in a second ballot. However, the GOP conference elected to drop Jordan as its nominee last week after he failed to win speakership across three House floor ballots in which he got fewer votes each time.

Democrats nominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) for speaker and have so far voted in unison for him in all the speakership votes this month. There could be a shift in strategy, as Punchbowl News reported that House Democrats see Emmer as the least disagreeable candidate and some would sit out of a House floor vote to help him win if they got certain assurances. But the news outlet noted Emmer has no interest in negotiating with them.

As the majority whip, Emmer is tasked with rallying votes for the party’s legislative priorities. When it came to the race for speaker, Emmer had the support of McCarthy, who said the Minnesota Republican “knows how to do the job.”

In a letter to colleagues explaining what he would do as speaker, Emmer pledged to use a “culture of teamwork, communication, and respect to build on the moments that brought us success, learn from our mistakes, and keep fighting for each and every one of you and our Republican majority.”

He also said: “I will also always be honest and direct with all of you, even if we disagree. I will never make a promise I cannot fulfill. I expect to be held accountable, and you can expect that we will also keep you to your word.”

Former President Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner in the 2024 presidential race, had endorsed Jordan for speaker. Trump declined to pick a new favorite among the new slate of candidates.

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