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Tom Emmer Withdraws From House Speaker Race Hours After Securing Nomination

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Updated: | Originally published:

The push to elect a new House Speaker took an unexpected turn on Tuesday when House Majority Whip Tom Emmer dropped out of the race just hours after he secured his party’s nomination for the open position that has left Congress paralyzed for three weeks.

The abrupt withdrawal followed mounting resistance within the Republican ranks as a contingent of far-right members signaled their unwillingness to support Emmer on the House floor, effectively removing his path to victory.

Emmer’s decision to drop out also came on the heels of a scathing statement by former President Donald Trump, who lashed out at the Minnesota Republican on his social media platform, Truth Social, on Tuesday afternoon, labeling him a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and warning that voting for Emmer would be a “tragic mistake.”

The initial nomination had seen Emmer prevail in a closely watched, secret ballot contest that drew nine Republican candidates and lasted five rounds. In a room divided by ideological tensions and personal conflicts, Emmer ultimately defeated his closest competitor, House GOP Vice Chair Mike Johnson of Louisiana, with a vote of 117 to 97.

Despite pitching himself as a unity candidate, Emmer has struggled to overcome criticisms from the far-right who argue he has not been supportive enough of former President Donald Trump, as he was one of the few Speaker candidates who did not object to certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory in at least one state back on Jan. 6, 2021. Last month, Trump allies told TIME that Trump, who has a commanding lead in virtually all of the Republican primary polls, would have a hard time working with Emmer if he were to win a second term as president next year.

Additionally, some moderates in the conference expressed dissatisfaction with Emmer’s failure to back an effort to temporarily empower the acting speaker, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, to allow the House to address critical matters while the leadership fight plays out.

A mainstream conservative, Emmer, 62, has been a member of Congress since 2015 and last year was elected as GOP majority whip, the third highest position in House Republican leadership, in a competitive three-way battle. During the 2022 midterms, he led the National Republican Campaign Committee, NRCC, the main arm of the GOP tasked with electing Republicans to the House, when the party picked up fewer seats than expected but still won a narrow House majority. 

Emmer recently called Trump a “fantastic ally” and criticized the multiple criminal prosecutions against the former President as an “abuse of power.” But he hasn’t endorsed Trump or any other candidate to run against Joe Biden in 2024.

The House has remained at a standstill since Oct. 3, when a faction of hard-right Republicans, along with Democrats, forced the vote to remove McCarthy from the Speaker's position. The GOP has since struggled to rally around a successor, all while international conflicts continue to escalate and a government shutdown looms if Congress doesn’t agree on spending legislation by mid-November.

House Republicans are now planning to go back to the drawing board to find their fourth speaker designee, with another candidate forum expected later on Tuesday. With Emmer out, Reps. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma and Johnson are the expected frontrunners.

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com