Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) ostensibly began his bid for speaker with fewer members dug in against him than Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who failed to win the post last week. While 55 said on a secret ballot they would oppose Jordan, fewer than half, 26, said the same of Emmer in a recorded vote on Tuesday.
The bad news was that the math problem very much remains for Emmer and the GOP, with the next speaker likely able to only lose the votes of four GOP colleagues.
The search for the next House speaker
End of carousel
And then Donald Trump decided to make sure that the math problem was prohibitive, with Emmer dropping out of the race just hours later.
Trump decided to weigh in shortly after the GOP conference picked Emmer as its third contestant to replace ousted former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Emmer’s nomination followed the failed bids of Jordan and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)
“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors,” Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social. “RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them.”
Trump’s arguments against Emmer were varied, but they basically boiled down to the single most important characteristic for Trump: supporting Trump.
“He fought me all the way,” Trump said, adding: “I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure?”
The interjection proved particularly unhelpful for Emmer. No, Trump hasn’t been able to guide the party’s speaker decisions, having endorsed Jordan before he lost the first time to Scalise and then lost as the speaker-designate. But marshaling opposition is a considerably lower bar. Instead of getting 217 to vote for someone, you just need to get five to vote against someone.
And Trump was casting a spotlight on problems with the MAGA movement that Emmer was always likely to have.
Emmer was probably the most mainstream of the nine candidates who ran for the GOP’s nomination this time around. He voted in favor of same-sex marriage, repeatedly in favor of Ukraine aid and in favor of bipartisan debt ceiling and government funding deals. He also voted against rejecting the 2020 election results, unlike more than two-thirds of House Republicans — an issue that surely stuck in Trump’s craw.
All of these are squarely where most of the House is — and even where many Republicans are — but they’re all liabilities with a hard-right that drives a hard bargain.
And shortly after Emmer won the nomination, we began to see these problems creep in. Emmer’s problem was that there are plenty of issues that could be red lines for hard-right members, even if they don’t all have the same red lines:
Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) said he would not vote for Emmer because of the same-sex marriage vote. “Any way you would vote for him?” CNN’s Manu Raju asked. Allen responded: “No.”Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), whom Emmer defeated to become the No. 3 House Republican last year, said, “Emmer’s not a conservative.” Added Banks: “I’m a conservative. I came to Washington to fight for conservative values. I can’t go along with putting one of the most moderate members of the entire Republican conference in the speaker’s chair.”Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) said he was not backing Emmer because his constituents want an outsider — i.e. not a member of House leadership.Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) spotlighted Emmer’s votes on spending bills, saying: “I’m concerned about that.”Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) focused on several of these issues, along with a couple others, while saying that “he has a voting record I can’t support.”
All it takes is five who decide that voting for a bipartisan deal to keep the government funded — or for same-sex marriage or to certify the 2020 election results — is a bridge too far. Or that replacing McCarthy with another member of leadership isn’t really an improvement. Or that you don’t vote against the wishes of your party’s leader, Trump.
For Emmer, the upshot was that his speaker dreams were dashed almost as quickly as they began. For the GOP, the takeaway is that this still-in-vain quest for a new speaker remains a long way from resolution.