WASHINGTON — On Tuesday morning, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) secured the GOP nomination for House Speaker, beating out eight other candidates. But hours later, he dropped out, signaling the Republicans’ inability to rally behind a single candidate.
In a historic move, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as House Speaker three weeks ago. Since then, there have been four GOP Speaker nominees hailing from multiple factions within the Republican party.
First, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), a mainstream conservative, withdrew his nomination after a day. Then, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the founder of the ultra right Freedom Caucus, tried three times on the House floor to secure the Speakership but lost votes with each round of voting.
On Tuesday, Republicans seemed to settle on Emmer, who serves as House Majority Whip and was backed by McCarthy. Of the eight vying for the Speakership on Tuesday morning, Emmer was one of just two who voted to certify the 2020 election, though he participated in spreading election falsehoods.
Before proceeding with a House floor vote — where Emmer could only afford to lose four votes —, he held a roll call meeting. In that meeting, names were attached to votes, so holdouts could not be anonymous; whereas, Jordan was cast out of his nomination in a secret ballot.
It’s a “better process” than Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Miss.) has seen before, she told reporters. House Republicans, even Trump supporters, partook in a productive discussion — one with “no shouting or yelling or anything like that,” according to Wagner.
“It does away with this feeling that there are any kind of backroom deals going on,” Wagner said.
Emmer has the experience, relationships and respect of the conference, which initially offered hope for a breakthrough, said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) as he walked out of the meeting.
“If Tom Emmer can’t do it, then that’s when it gets a little scary, because he’s the whip. He knows how to count votes,” Diaz-Balart said.
Emmer spent Tuesday afternoon speaking with the 26 holdouts attempting to reach a resolution.
It was then that former President Donald Trump slammed Emmer on Truth Social, calling the Minnesota representative a “RINO” or “Republican in name only.” He warned House Republicans that voting for Emmer would be a “tragic mistake.”
Trump allies criticized Emmer for voting for a Democratic bill that sought to protect gay marriage. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a holdout, posted that she could not support Emmer’s voting record, which included overturning Trump’s transgender military ban and passing funding for the war in Ukraine.
But Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told reporters that Republicans need to unify behind a single candidate, following Emmer’s drop out.
“We can’t operate (this) way as a party,” Gallagher said. “We’re a big tent party. We’re never going to agree 100 percent.”
By late afternoon, Emmer abruptly walked out of the building and his drop out was later confirmed.
The House has gone 21 days without a Speaker, putting congressional activities on pause. As Speaker unrest unfolds into its third week, Wagner said plenty of “tough issues” remain unmoved on the agenda, like U.S. support for Israel, the appropriations process and the border.
“Our constituents are hurting and they are expecting us to lead,” Wagner said. “It’s time for this conference to come together, elect a speaker and get about the people’s business.”
Likewise, Gallagher said the GOP’s infighting impedes the House’s power to negotiate with the Senate.
“The end of the year homework is piling up,” Gallagher said. “How we can how do we negotiate if we don’t have a speaker?”
As Emmer’s bid fell apart, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.)’s name floated around the halls as an alternative choice to the Minnesota representative. Johnson placed second after Emmer in the Tuesday morning round of voting.
By late evening, Republicans held another meeting, agreeing on Johnson, who ended up with 128 votes. He received also endorsements from Emmer, Jordan and McCarthy.
The House is anticipated to vote on Johnson’s nomination on the floor Wednesday at noon.