Oct 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP's accelerating doom loop deposes Tom Emmer in record four hours

Tom Emmer

Emmer leaves the Capitol today. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) dropped out of the House speaker's race barely four hours after winning the Republican nomination today, a staggering new milestone in the GOP's cycle of self-destruction.

Why it matters: In the three weeks since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was unceremoniously ousted, three Republican nominees have come and gone. The House remains paralyzed with no clear escape hatch.

How we got here: Emmer prevailed over an initial field of eight total candidates in a five-round vote this morning, defeating Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice chair of the GOP conference, by a margin of 117-97.

  • Emmer then requested an internal roll call vote to determine whether 217 Republicans would support him, hoping to save the House — and himself — from a fruitless floor vote if GOP opposition appeared insurmountable.
  • At least 20 mostly conservative Republicans said they would oppose Emmer, citing his past votes to certify the 2020 election, protect same-sex marriage and avert a government shutdown.

A late intervention from former President Trump — whose allies had already been aggressively whipping against Emmer and virtually any candidate perceived to be part of "the establishment" — proved to be the death knell.

  • Minutes after withdrawing his bid at a 4pm GOP conference meeting, Emmer walked briskly out the door, out of the Capitol and into an SUV — declining to say a word to the trail of reporters following him.
  • The conference immediately moved on as if this was standard procedure, calling for members to enter the race by 5:30pm in time for a 6pm candidate forum and a 7:30 vote.

State of play: Johnson is viewed as the new front-runner after coming in second place Tuesday morning.

  • Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, is also expected to have strong support after coming in third.
  • Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.), Reps. Roger William (R-Texas) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) are running as a first-time candidates.

Between the lines: Republicans have effectively decapitated their own leadership, ousting McCarthy while blocking House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Emmer — the GOP whip — from ascending to the speakership.

  • Moderates and establishment-minded Republicans — furious about the treatment of McCarthy and Scalise — took out their vengeance by blocking Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the candidate favored by the MAGA insurgents.
  • Inside the GOP conference, Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) appealed for unity and called for the cycle of retribution to end — no simple task for this hopelessly divided and frustrated conference.
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