The third Republican nominee for US House speaker in two weeks dropped out Tuesday after failing to find enough support to win the gavel, plunging the paralyzed lower chamber of Congress deeper into crisis.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer had narrowly won an internal Republican ballot to replace ousted speaker Kevin McCarthy — but quit hours later amid a backlash from the right wing of the party led by former president Donald Trump.
Congress has been at a standstill and unable to address multiple global crises, as well as the fast approaching threat of a government shutdown, since McCarthy’s historic dismissal in a far-right rebellion on October 3.
Emmer emerged victorious from a series of secret ballots in a crowded field of potential replacements — but Republicans immediately began speaking out against the 62-year-old and the writing was on the wall after Trump called on the party to drop the establishment favorite.
“The dysfunction in the Republican Party right now seems to be saying we want to lose,” exasperated Kentucky Republican Andy Barr told CNN.
“That is crazy to me. We were elected as a majority to govern, and we are not doing that right now. And so I am imploring my colleagues to stop this and elect a speaker so that we can get back to governing.”
Emmer was already the party’s Plan D, with McCarthy still popular among the majority of House Republicans and two other potential replacements winning the nomination only to be humiliated in the same manner.
Desperate for a way out of the impasse, the party was discussing coalescing around a new standard-bearer such as Louisiana’s Mike Johnson, who came second to Emmer for the nomination.
But there was no indication that he wouldn’t fall foul of the same internal divisions that have left the party unable to unite around a leader for three weeks.
Whoever they move on to will likely be the least experienced speaker in more than a century, as none of the declared hopefuls have chaired a committee or held a senior leadership role for more than a few months.
And the next speaker could find themselves presiding over a government shutdown unless they can cut a 2024 budget deal, favorable to the party, with much more seasoned negotiators, from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to President Joe Biden.
They would also be expected to lead the deeply fractured conference through upcoming fights over funding for Ukraine and Israel in their conflicts with Russia and Hamas.
– ‘Stop Emmer’ –
Each of the candidates pledged to back the eventual nominee, but there was never any evidence that Emmer could garner sufficient support to win 217 votes — the majority on the House floor — and seize the gavel.
The nominee can afford to lose just four Republicans and still claim the speakership if every Democrat votes against him.
Only 117 of Emmer’s colleagues voted for him in the final round of balloting, according to US media — with 97 preferring his rival, Louisiana congressman Mike Johnson.
Lawmakers leaving the secret ballot told reporters there were 26 holdouts against Emmer in a vote he had called to gauge support immediately after winning the nomination.
Republicans reportedly lined up in the room to complain about the Minnesota congressman’s record of support for Ukraine aid and same-sex marriage as well as questioning his loyalty to Trump.
Like the majority of House Republicans, Emmer has baselessly sown doubt over the validity of Biden’s 2020 election win over Trump, but supporters of the former president were angered by the majority whip voting to certify the result.
“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them,” Trump posted on his website Truth Social.
RINO — short for “Republican in name only” — is a disparaging label Trump uses for members of the party who fall out of his favor.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)