There Goes Another One: Tom Emmer’s Speakership Bid Is Officially Kaput

There Goes Another One: Tom Emmer’s Speakership Bid Is Officially Kaput

Three weeks after a band of eight rogue lawmakers voted to strip Kevin McCarthy of the gavel, the rudderless House Republican caucus claimed another victim Tuesday evening. Republican Tom Emmer became the latest Republican to try—and fail—to win the House Speakership after five secret ballot votes and one roll-call vote, yet again leaving the conference scrambling for a leader. Emmer reportedly stepped aside in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, which the Minnesota lawmaker abruptly left as his chances evaporated.

Earlier in the day, Emmer emerged as the Speaker designee after he beat out eight other candidates in the latest attempt by House Republicans to coalesce around a successor to McCarthy. But despite winning a total of 117 votes in a runoff against his colleague Mike Johnson, it quickly became clear that Emmer was short of the threshold needed to win on the House floor, leading to a brief recess.

As Republican lawmakers trickled out of the roll-call vote Tuesday afternoon, a number had expressed skepticism that the majority whip could win over the more than two dozen remaining holdouts. “You’ve got to understand, you go through the alphabet, you start at A, and you move your way forward through the alphabet. By the time it got to the letter N…we already had upwards of 20 that said that they could not support Tom Emmer for Speaker,” Texas representative Troy Nehls told reporters. “This is where we are again, back to where we started. This is where we’re at.” 

Other Republicans had struck a more optimistic tone. “I think Emmer is showing tremendous leadership. He’s standing at the mic and people with concerns are coming forward. And he’s taking them on head-to-head,” South Dakota representative Dusty Johnson said to the scrum. Vern Buchanan also praised Emmer’s efforts to win over the holdouts after the roll-call vote. “The idea is that we don’t leave here, leave town, until we get a Speaker,” the Florida Republican said. “I’m confident we’ll get where we need to be.” 

Steve Scalise—who personally knows just how difficult it is to unite his colleagues, having dropped out of the race himself—telegraphed the steep challenges Emmer faced. “We are working right now through some questions,” he said. “Obviously we want to work to make sure when we get to the floor, we have 217…. But this is an ongoing process,” Scalise added. “The first thing that Tom’s doing is hearing people out.”

But ultimately, Emmer’s best attempts to cajole the holdouts were not enough. The Minnesota lawmaker’s path to 217 was always going to be a rocky one. After all, Emmer was the fourth choice for House Speaker after McCarthy was removed and Scalise and Jim Jordan failed to secure enough GOP support to win on the floor. There was also the snag that is Donald Trump: While the former president first made a milquetoast statement regarding Emmer’s bid, he later took to Truth Social to criticize the GOP whip as a “RINO”—an acronym for “Republican in name only.” The ex-president’s allies reportedly went on to share the post with House Republicans.

Emmer’s loss is also something of a blow to Democrats. As Punchbowl News reported Tuesday morning, House Democrats were considering strategic absences to help Emmer, viewing the Minnesota Republican as the most palatable of the slate of candidates. Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Steny Hoyer—the former number two in House Democratic leadership—cast Emmer as a lesser of evils while stopping short of confirming that Democrats would be willing to throw Emmer a life vest on the House floor. “I’m not willing to make a comment until the Republican Party makes a decision,” he said.

Such discussions, it seems, were moot, anyway. After 21 days without a Speaker, House Republicans are back to square one in their leadership search as tensions within the caucus continue to boil over.

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