House Republicans nominated House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) for Speaker on Tuesday, making him the third GOP lawmaker who will attempt to get 217 votes to secure the gavel in the past three weeks.
The conference selected Emmer — the No. 3 House Republican — for the position in a secret ballot during an internal election that lasted three hours, choosing him over six other candidates vying for the job. Two Republicans withdrew their names from the race before voting began.
Emmer, 62, will now take his nomination to the House floor, where he will have to muster enough votes to win the gavel — a heavy lift that the previous two GOP Speaker nominees failed to achieve. If all lawmakers are present and vote for a specific candidate, Emmer will need at least 217 votes.
It may also be a hard climb for Emmer.
In conference, he got 117 votes on the final ballot, while House Republican Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson (R-La.) got 97. And in a roll call vote that followed, lawmakers said about 20 holdouts remained.
Emmer may have to contend having a less conservative voting record than some members would like.
He has voted in favor of codifying same-sex marriage; in favor of spending bills and a debt limit deal that outraged hard-liners; and opposed votes on Jan. 6, 2021, objecting to 2020 election results.
Rep. Rich Allen (R-Ga.) said he will not back Emmer for Speaker because of his vote in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress last year and gives federal protections to same-sex marriages.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said before Emmer was nominated Tuesday that the conservative House Freedom Caucus is not committing to backing Emmer on the floor.
“We want to sit down with whoever gets it as a Freedom Caucus and understand what their roles — what their roles will be, what they want to push and things like that,” he added.
The remaining holdouts meeting with Emmer do not have one particular ideological bent, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said.
“The people that are standing up are all over the place,” he told reporters after exiting a more than three hour conference meeting.
“It’s not just Freedom caucus members….They are all across the board.”
Emmer’s nomination is the latest development in the long-winded Speaker saga, which has fractured the GOP conference and left the House at a standstill. The chamber is unable to conduct legislative business on the floor without installing a permanent Speaker or empowering Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a reality that has prevented lawmakers from advancing key priorities like government funding and aid for Israel and Ukraine.
Tuesday marked exactly three weeks since eight Republicans banded with Democrats to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his post.
And for Emmer — the no-nonsense former collegiate hockey player — Tuesday marks the pinnacle of his career on Capitol Hill. The Minnesota Republican came to Congress in 2015 and served two stints as chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) before rising to majority whip.
Emmer led the House GOP’s campaign arm when Republicans regained the majority in 2022, winning a net-nine seats that delivered them their slim, five-seat majority. Since that victory, he has been instrumental in helping the GOP conference secure a list of legislative wins.
Even Freedom Caucus members have praised Emmer throughout the year for being an honest broker. His office has been a frequent gathering place for Republicans this year as they hashed out internal disagreements.
In a letter to colleagues announcing his candidacy, Emmer pledged to “always be honest and direct with all of you, even if we disagree.”
“I will never make a promise I cannot fulfill,” Emmer wrote. “I expect to be held accountable, and you can expect that we will also keep you to your word.”
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., won the Speaker nomination as the GOP tries for the third time to decide on a new Speaker. Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The House GOP’s path to nominating Emmer was muddy.
Last week, House Republicans voted to drop Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as the conference’s nominee after he fell short of the gavel on three floor votes. Before that, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) withdrew his name from the race after Jordan backers said they would not support him on the House floor.
The floodgates then opened, with nine candidates throwing their hat in the ring as the conference’s next best chance to break the Speaker impasse.
Republican Reps. Dan Meuser (Pa.) and Gary Palmer (Ala.) withdrew their names before voting began, while Emmer, Johnson, Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) remained in the running.
Emmer was seen as an early front-runner in the crowded field to be the third Republican Speaker nominee because of his rank in the GOP conference, his experience of running in leadership races and an early endorsement from McCarthy, who threw his support behind the Minnesotan even before he formally jumped in the race.
Emmer was also able to breathe a small sigh of relief after former President Trump made positive comments when asked about the Minnesota Republican — which followed negative remarks from Trump loyalists aimed at him.
Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, for example, called Emmer a “Trump hater.” And Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, speaking on Bannon’s “War Room” show Friday, knocked Emmer for not yet endorsing Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Emmer has said he does not plan to endorse any primary candidate.
But in New Hampshire on Tuesday, when a reporter said Emmer had not always been Trump’s biggest fan, the former president said: “I think he’s my biggest fan now, because he called me yesterday, and he told me, ‘I’m your biggest fan,’ so I don’t know about that.”
“I’ve always gotten along with him,” Trump added of Emmer.
The pair also spoke ahead of Tuesday’s internal election.
Updated at 1:39 p.m.