World

Tom Emmer becomes third Republican candidate to fail in speaker bid

Donald Trump (Luiz C Ribeiro/AP)
Donald Trump (Luiz C Ribeiro/AP) Donald Trump (Luiz C Ribeiro/AP)

Republican Tom Emmer has abruptly abandoned his bid to become speaker of the US House of Representatives, withdrawing hours after winning the internal party nomination once it became clear he would not have enough support from colleagues.

The House whip reversed course after Donald Trump objected to his nomination and hardliners in the House denied the party leader the votes he would need for the gavel, according to Republican sources.

He is the third Republican to fall short, leaving the party no closer to resolving the chaos they have created since ousting Kevin McCarthy at the start of the month.

Congress Speaker
Congress Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Mariam Zuhaib/AP)

Mr Emmer briskly left the building where he had been meeting colleagues, and got into a waiting car. He said nothing in response to shouted questions as they drove off from the Capitol complex.

Mr Trump, speaking as he left the courtroom in New York where he is facing business fraud charges, said his “un-endorsement” must have had an impact on Mr Emmer’s bid.

“He wasn’t MAGA,” said Mr Trump, the party’s front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, referring to his Make America Great Again campaign slogan.

Dejected Republicans retreated behind closed doors, searching for a way out of the chaos they have created.

Three weeks after Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy, throwing the House into turmoil, they appear no closer to ending the bitter infighting and choosing a new speaker who can credibly unite the party majority, lead the party and get the US Congress working again.

“We’re in the same cul-de-sac,” said Scott Perry, chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

Mr Emmer, the party’s third-ranking Republican, had jumped out in front during private morning balloting among a list of mostly lesser-known congressmen aspiring to be speaker, a powerful position second in line to the presidency.

But no sooner did he win the majority vote of his colleagues than his nomination was shot down by a powerful detractor he had tried to win over — Mr Trump, the Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, who has long criticised the party’s former campaign chief as disloyal.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Donald Trump (Luiz C Ribeiro/AP)

While Mr Emmer won a simple majority in a roll call behind closed doors — 117 votes — he lost more than two dozen Republicans, leaving him far short of what will be needed during a House floor tally.

Mr Trump, who has played an influential role tipping the tally in the speaker’s race, wrote on social media on Tuesday that he has “many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House”, but Mr Emmer “is not one of them” and it would be a ”mistake” to give him the gavel.

The House has been in turmoil since a contingent of hardline Republicans ousted Mr McCarthy, creating what is now a governing crisis which is preventing the normal operations of Congress. There appears to be no resolution within reach.

Coming in a steady second in the balloting was constitutional law expert Mike Johnson, who directly battled Mr Emmer in the fifth round, picking up 97 votes. He ultimately announced his full support for his colleague.

“What we have to do in this room is unite and begin to govern again,” said Mr Johnson.

Others were eliminated during multiple rounds of voting, including Byron Donalds, a top Trump ally, and McDonald’s franchise owner Kevin Hern, a conservative leader who plied his colleagues with hamburgers seeking their support.

Having rejected the top replacements, majority leader Steve Scalise and the Trump-backed Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, there is no longer any obvious choice for the job.

With Republicans controlling the House 221-212 over Democrats, any Republican nominee can afford only a few detractors to win the gavel.