Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Min.) has become the third GOP speaker-designate in a row to withdraw from the race, facing strong resistance from a small faction within his party. Without a speaker, the House has been largely paralyzed for three weeks.
At 62, Mr. Emmer secured a win in the intra-conference nominating contest with a vote of 117-97 on Oct. 24. However, a subsequent confirming vote exposed that approximately 25 Republicans were not in support of Mr. Emmer’s candidacy, casting significant doubt on his ability to secure victory in the House floor election.
His chances dwindled when former President Donald Trump publicly opposed his candidacy, declaring on social media that “Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!”
Mr. Emmer spent several hours trying to sway the opposing Republicans but ultimately withdrew from the race during a second conference meeting later that day.
“It may be that Republicans in the House have been conditioned to just say no unless they get everything they want,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) commented before the conference. According to Johnson, madness lies that way.
Last week, the conference had to let go of the previously designated speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), after he couldn’t secure a majority in a third House floor ballot. Prior to that, Steve Scalise (R-La.) withdrew on Oct. 12, realizing he lacked sufficient support from his party members.
The day began with a sense of optimism as several Republican members expressed their hope for unity behind one of the seven candidates in the nominating contest. Nine candidates had declared their intention to run following Mr. Jordan’s withdrawal on Oct. 20, with seven remaining at the start of the nominating conference.
The candidates were Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Min.), the most senior among them, along with Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Reps. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) withdrew before the vote.
Before voting, each candidate was nominated by a chosen member. Typically, three nominating speeches are given, but due to the number of candidates, only one was allowed. After each voting round, the candidate with the least votes was eliminated. A simple majority was required to win. The initial votes were cast by secret ballot.
After several rounds of voting, Mr. Emmer won the nomination, receiving seven fewer votes than Mr. Jordan had 11 days prior. Immediately after, Mr. Emmer requested a confirming roll call vote to gauge his chances in the House election. While no official vote tally was released, it was indicated that around 26 Republicans would not support Mr. Emmer. Given the slim Republican majority in the House, the candidate could only afford to lose four Republican votes.
Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) likened the situation to Groundhog Day, expressing his disappointment as a patriot new to politics. Opposition to Mr. Emmer was primarily based on his voting record, particularly his votes to certify the 2020 presidential election results and in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which granted federal protections to same-sex couples.
“We have a difference of opinion … on marriage,” Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) stated after the first ballot, adding that his constituents opposed Mr. Emmer and that he would not vote for him. “Emmer is not a conservative,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) declared, criticizing Mr. Emmer’s leadership skills.
When the House reconvenes after three weeks of inactivity, the new speaker will need to swiftly address a variety of legislative issues.
The first and simplest task is likely to be passing a resolution supporting Israel’s right to self-defense, a symbolic measure with 425 co-sponsors.
Additionally, the House will consider President Joe Biden’s request for approximately $105 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific allies, and border security. While Republicans are generally supportive of aiding Israel and strengthening border security, many are skeptical of providing aid to Ukraine and believe these requests should be evaluated individually rather than as a package.
The appropriations process must be completed by Nov. 17. The speakership crisis was triggered when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) passed a 45-day continuing spending resolution on Sept. 30, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown.
Given the three-week delay, some members believe a second continuing resolution is inevitable, while others demand that the House pass the remaining eight appropriations bills and reconcile them with the Senate before the current resolution expires.
The House is also expected to consider additional sanctions on Iranian oil sales to curb their funding of terrorist activities. There is lingering discontent within the Republican conference due to the events of the past three weeks, including the removal of the previous speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
Mr. McCarthy described the past three weeks as “a total embarrassment” and expressed concern about the demoralization of Republican members.
“We already have Debbie Lesko [resigning] during this process. There are a number of others who have talked to me. I think they’re frustrated by the process. I hope they stay,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Regarding the eight Republicans who voted to remove the previous speaker, Mr. McCarthy stated, “There have to be consequences,” noting that they violated a Republican conference rule requiring the support of 50 percent of GOP members to introduce a motion to vacate the chair.
House rules permit such a motion to be introduced by a single member.