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Monday April 15, 2024

Republicans choose establishment-fav Tom Emmer for US House speaker nominee

Tom Emmer emerged victorious from a series of secret ballots in a crowded field that began with nine candidates

By Web Desk
October 24, 2023
US House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer watches as the House of Representatives votes for a third time on whether to elevate Rep. Jim Jordan to Speaker of the House in the US Capitol on October 20, 2023 in Washington, DC. — AFP
US House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer watches as the House of Representatives votes for a third time on whether to elevate Rep. Jim Jordan to Speaker of the House in the US Capitol on October 20, 2023 in Washington, DC. — AFP

Republicans put their faith in the establishment favourite majority whip Tom Emmer to steer them out of the weeks-long crisis that has paralysed Washington and succeed the deposed speaker of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Congress has been at a standstill and unable to address multiple global crises, as well as the fast-approaching threat of a government shutdown, after the historic dismissal of Kevin McCarthy in a right-wing rebellion on October 3.

Emmer emerged victorious from a series of secret ballots in a crowded field that began with nine candidates — but the House number three will still need to convince almost all of his colleagues to back him in a vote on the House floor.

The 62-year-old is very much the party's Plan D, with McCarthy still popular among the majority of House Republicans, who sidelined his expected replacement and humiliated the third-choice nominee by failing to back him in the House.

And he will be the least experienced speaker in more than a century, having never chaired a committee or held a senior leadership role for more than a few months — although he led the Republican campaign arm for two terms.

Emmer could find himself presiding over a government shutdown unless he can cut a 2024 budget deal, favorable to his party, with much more seasoned negotiators, from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to President Joe Biden.

He will also be expected to lead his deeply fractured conference through upcoming fights over funding for Ukraine and Israel in their conflicts with Russia and Hamas.

He said in a letter to colleagues ahead of the ballots that he was seeking the gavel to deliver "historic change."

"Our conference remains at a crossroads and the deck is stacked against us. We have no choice but to fight like hell to hold on to our House majority and deliver on our conservative agenda," he wrote.

'Stop Emmer'

Each of the candidates pledged to back the eventual nominee, but there has been little evidence so far that Emmer has 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.

Dan Meuser, one of the initial nine-speaker hopefuls, told reporters there were around 10 holdouts against Emmer in a vote he called to gauge support immediately after winning the nomination — enough to deny him the gavel.

Allies of the Minnesota congressman worry that he will struggle to secure votes from conservative hard-liners and allies of former president Donald Trump, many of whom were angered by him voting to certify President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

Trump himself has not publicly come out against Emmer but his close ally, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has launched a "stop Emmer" drive.

Georgia's Rick Allen said he would vote against Emmer on the floor over his support for same-sex marriage while the leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus said he was "concerned" about Emmer's voting record on spending bills.

The father of seven was deemed the most acceptable of the candidates to Democrats and may be able to rely on some who said they would be prepared to absent themselves from the vote to help him across the line.

"The dysfunction in the House is a national and global security issue," Democrat and fellow Minnesotan Dean Phillips posted on social media.

"I would sit out the Speaker vote if Tom Emmer will fund our government at negotiated levels, bring Ukraine and Israel aid bills to the floor, and commit to rules changes to make Congress work for the people."