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Republicans choose Tom Emmer as their new candidate for House speaker

The No. 3 Republican still has to face a full House vote, where it is not certain he will have the support of his entire conference

Tom Emmer
Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer, upon arrival at the Capitol this Tuesday.JONATHAN ERNST (REUTERS)

Republicans are still trying to find a solution to the chaos in which they have plunged the House of Representatives after ousting its speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Three weeks after his removal through a motion to vacate presented by hardliner Matt Gaetz, the Republican conference met Tuesday behind closed doors to try to reach a consensus on a new speaker candidate. After successive rounds of voting, the chosen one was Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer. That, however, does not guarantee that he will receive the necessary support from his conference (a total of 217 votes) to be elected speaker, so the uncertainty continues.

After McCarthy’s removal, the Republicans’ first choice was Steve Scalise, but several members of his conference made it clear that they would boycott his election, so his nomination did not make it to a full House vote. Next, they nominated hardliner Jim Jordan, who was not backed by the more moderate members of the party. After Jordan failed three floor votes, the Republicans decided to scrap his nomination and go back to square one.

Nine representatives expressed their interest in running for the post, although one did not formalize his candidacy and another withdrew at the last minute. This Tuesday, the House Republicans met in private and, after several rounds of voting in which the candidates with the least support were discarded, the chosen one was Emmer, who obtained 117 votes among the 221 members of his group. The runnerup was Mike Johnson, congressman for Louisiana, an election denier who refused to recognize Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. In the final ballot, he got 97 votes.

Having only a narrow majority, and in a vote in which a speaker candidate needs to get 217 votes on the floor, Republicans can hardly afford defections. The hard-right wing of the GOP once again has veto power, and it remains to be seen if it will use it. By Tuesday afternoon, various right-wing Republicans had already indicated that they did not intend to vote for Emmer on the floor.

The Republican conference was set to hold another secret ballot later on Tuesday to see whether everyone was willing to close ranks behind Emmer. If it appears that there is a sufficient majority, the full House could vote as early as Tuesday. If there are too many holdouts, it is possible that any vote could be delayed.

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