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The House of Representatives returns to chaos: Trumpists force Tom Emmer to withdraw his speaker candidacy

The Republican congressman had been selected just hours earlier by his conference to bid to replace McCarthy

Republican Representative of Minnesota Tom Emmer
Tom Emmer, this Tuesday, after withdrawing his candidacy for president of the House of Representatives.MICHAEL REYNOLDS (EFE)
Miguel Jiménez

House Republicans have settled into chaos. Just hours after nominating Tom Emmer as candidate to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy as speaker, the hard wing of the party, under the long shadow of Donald Trump, has forced him to withdraw his candidacy. The commitments of the rest of the candidates to support the winner in the internal votes have been of no use. The most extremists are not willing to accept the decision of the majority if they do not like it.

Thus, three weeks after the victory of the vote to oust McCarthy, the House of Representatives is still without a Speaker, with legislative activity paralyzed and at a dead end. The Republicans have 221 congressmen and 217 votes are needed to guarantee their election, so a handful of them are enough to impose their veto.

The permanent drama in which the Republicans have found themselves shows a deeply divided group within a poisoned atmosphere. The radical wing of the party is taking revenge for the rejection of its candidate, Jim Jordan, who received the simultaneous backing of Donald Trump and McCarthy himself, the two people with the greatest leadership within the party, but who was rejected by moderate GOP members of Congress.

Among this group, there was unease about the way Jordan’s candidacy had broken through. In a first internal caucus vote to find McCarthy’s successor, the winner had been Steve Scalise, but Jordan’s supporters made it clear, in what moderates consider a stab in the back, that they would not bow to the majority decision and would block his nomination, so he threw in the towel before voting began.

Then the nominee was Jordan, but after the third consecutive lost vote, Republicans voted on Friday to withdraw his nomination and go back to square one in search of an alternative. Over the weekend, nine congressmen expressed interest in running for the position, although one did not formalize his candidacy and another withdrew at the last minute. This Tuesday, the parliamentary group met behind closed doors and, after several rounds of voting in which the candidates with the least support were left out, the chosen one was Emmer, who obtained 117 votes among the 221 members of his group, to the 97 of the ultra-conservative Mike Johnson.

Then, however, the nominee found that there was no way to convince members of the radical wing of the parliamentary group to support him. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump attacked him from his social networks and said that his election would be “a tragic mistake”.

“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 wrote on his network Truth, accusing him of being a Republican in name only (RINO). “He is totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters. 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? Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win? The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that’s not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!” he added.

With members of Congress as loyal to Trump as Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz and a large part of the most radical members of the group, the chances of Emmer being elected by the floor with Trump against him were nonexistent. Thus, he decided to withdraw his candidacy, as Steve Scalise, the first Republican nominee, did at the time.

With the stalemate, the House is paralyzed when it has yet to vote on a $105 billion package requested by President Joe Biden, with aid destined mainly for Ukraine, but also for Israel, humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip and to reinforce control of the border with Mexico. To move forward, it needs the approval of both the Democrat controlled Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Republican radicals also oppose the Democrats’ proposal to temporarily grant limited powers to Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry, who took the speaker’s gavel upon McCarthy’s departure by designation of McCarthy himself. The idea would be that the House could resume functioning, even though it has no permanent speaker. With this, it could avoid the partial government shutdown when, in less than a month’s time, the budget extension approved a few weeks ago expires. It could also process the aid package for Ukraine and Israel.

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