A surprising turn of events occurred on Tuesday evening when the House GOP announced Rep. Mike Johnson as their recent choice for speaker nominee. However, the Louisiana Republican presently falls short of the crucial 217 votes required to secure the hallowed gavel. This ongoing impasse implies that the Republicans are still far from appointing a new speaker, a daunting three weeks following Kevin McCarthy’s momentous dethroning.
The day reached a chaotic climax as the nomination of Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer was upended amidst significant opposition from the GOP’s right flank and an impactful criticism from ex-president Donald Trump. Following this flurry of events, Emmer strategically opted out of the speaker’s race merely hours after his appointment.
The final round of secret-ballot voting witnessed Johnson gaining an opportunity with a majority of 128 votes. McCarthy, having accumulated merely 43 votes, trailed significantly behind. McCarthy’s actions are held responsible by certain House Republicans for hampering Johnson’s upward trajectory. Prior to Tuesday’s proceedings, several members actively broached the idea of McCarthy and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan forming an alliance to break the tangled impasse—McCarthy reclaiming the speaker’s role and appointing Jordan as his “assistant speaker.”
Johnson, however, remained buoyant after surviving a vital follow-up vote on Tuesday night, confidently declaring his candidacy for a full House vote scheduled for noon ET on Wednesday. Significantly, the Republicans face escalating pressure to appoint a formidable leader amidst growing GOP dysfunction and continued governmental paralysis due to the lack of an elected speaker. The party continues to grapple with deep-seated division within its ranks, failing yet again to come to a consensus on a suitable successor to McCarthy.
This politically precarious situation has driven the House into previously uncharted territory, raising grave doubts over any Republican’s ability to rally the required 217 votes to secure the speaker’s gavel.
Emmer’s evolution forms a fascinating subplot in the unfolding political drama. The third Republican to win the GOP conference’s nomination only to later withdraw from the race after being unsuccessful in collecting the mandatory votes for the gavel. Despite his party’s initial support via a secret ballot on Tuesday, Emmer encountered rapid opposition from his party’s right faction and a blistering critique from Trump—who dubbed Emmer a “Globalist RINO,” saying his election “would be a tragic mistake.” Trump later attributed Emmer’s withdrawal to his critique’s significant influence.
Trump’s team also reportedly dissuaded GOP members from endorsing Emmer for speaker. Despite this, Emmer shared a well-disposed telephone conversation with the former president over the weekend. On being quizzed about his relationship with Trump, Emmer provided an optimistic response: “We have a good relationship.”
Post Emmer’s exit from the race, warnings from Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas indicated a palpable “impasse” within the GOP, expressing uncertainty over whether they can reconcile their differences to find a speaker.
He added, “Right now, it is apparent to the American people that the GOP conference is hopelessly divided. Can it be overcome? Never say never. But the signs are right now that this conference is at some kind of an impasse.”