US Rep. Tom Emmer, the House majority whip who withdrew his bid for the speakership after it was thrown into immediate jeopardy Tuesday afternoon, has tried to balance an at-times moderate voting record while trying to appeal to the Donald Trump-aligned base of the Republican Party.
The move comes hours after the Minnesota Republican emerged as House Republicans’ new speaker nominee in the scramble to succeed Kevin McCarthy, who was removed from the role in a historic ouster on October 3. With a razor-thin GOP majority in the House, Emmer could only afford to lose four Republicans, and 26 voted against him behind closed doors. And despite a phone call with Trump over the weekend, the former president continued in recent days to post negative messages about Emmer on his Truth Social platform.
Several Republicans who opposed Emmer told CNN Tuesday they would not change their stance and called for a new candidate.
Emmer had recently faced criticism by the right-wing of the Republican conference for, among other things, voting for the bipartisan law to avoid a debt default and to codify same-sex marriage.
Perhaps most importantly, he voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, a flagrant rejection of Trump’s oft-repeated falsehoods that the results were illegitimate.
But Emmer has a history of supporting the former president. In interviews and public comments, reviewed by CNN’s KFile ahead of the speakership vote, Emmer also refused to say Joe Biden won the election and bashed the press for calling the race in the wake of the 2020 election.
The Minnesota lawmaker was first elected to Congress in 2014 and became majority whip earlier this year. Emmer, who lost a race for Minnesota governor in 2010, was a state representative from 2004-2008. He sits on the House Financial Services Committee and is a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
As majority whip, Emmer has experience with keeping the GOP’s narrow majority in line. Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is currently interim House speaker, told CNN in January that Emmer helped hammer out the negotiations between the 20 hardliners and the speaker’s office that eventually won McCarthy the gavel after 15 ballots.
McCarthy had backed the Minnesota Republican for speaker and urged the conference to elect him by the end of the week.
“This is not a time for a learning experience as speaker. Tom would be able to walk into the job and do it on day one,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
Soon after McCarthy lost the speaker job, some members floated Emmer as a contender, but he quickly rallied around House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who later dropped out after the GOP failed to coalesce around him.
South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told CNN earlier Tuesday that although he “didn’t agree with that vote,” referring to Emmer’s decision to certify the 2020 election, he he had not yet ruled out supporting him.
“Trust is something people are looking for,” Norman said, adding: “Tom’s honest.”
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.