A bitterly divided House GOP conference will meet behind closed doors Tuesday to elect a new Speaker nominee, this time choosing from a menu of eight members ranging from establishment figures to anti-institutional lawmakers who say they want to shake things up.
Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) is widely seen as a favorite, though it is far from clear that he — or anyone in the conference — could secure the votes needed to win the gavel on the House floor after the chaos of the last few weeks.
In the backroom meeting, only a majority is needed to win the group’s nomination. But whoever emerges from that internal election will need near-unanimous support from the conference on the floor — a herculean task that the GOP’s two previous nominees fell short of accomplishing.
Tuesday’s nomination vote comes exactly three weeks after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted from his post. After a pair of failed candidates, heightened tensions among members and three weeks of stalemate in the House, many are pessimistic about the conference’s chances of choosing his successor this time around.
“Getting 217 is obviously going to be very difficult and is the sort of Rubik’s Cube of the answer to all of this,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Adding a new layer, former President Trump waded back into the Speaker contest, though he stopped short of making an official endorsement. That could make new waves into the ongoing quest for the gavel that has fractured the GOP conference and left the House in a weeks-long standstill.
Trump called several Speaker candidates over the weekend, sources confirmed to The Hill, but he indicated he does not plan to formally throw his support behind one aspirant — after his first pick failed. Trump initially endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for Speaker, but the Judiciary Committee chair fell short of the gavel on three House floor ballots as Republicans withheld support, and the House GOP conference then voted to remove him as its nominee.
Even without a formal endorsement, Trump’s involvement in the race — albeit from a distance — could hurl a new curveball into the entire process, considering the former president’s polarizing presence in the House GOP conference and the bitter divisions already coursing through the group.
“We’re looking at a lot of people. And you know, I’m sort of trying to stay out of that as much as possible, but they’ll get it straightened out,” Trump said Monday in New Hampshire. “But no, I’ve always gotten along with him. I get along with all of them, really. A lot of good people, they have a lot of great people.”
One of the candidates Trump talked to was Emmer — a dialogue that followed recent comments from Trump loyalists that were negative toward Emmer.
Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, for example, called Emmer a “Trump hater.” And Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, speaking on former Bannon’s “War Room” show Friday, knocked Emmer for not yet endorsing Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Emmer has said he does not plan to endorse any primary candidate.
Emmer is one of the two Speaker candidates who voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
One friend of Trump urged against reading into the chat.
“Emmer called President Trump this weekend and the two had a polite conversation. End of story. Attempts from Emmer and his allies to make the call sound like something that it wasn’t is misleading,” a friend of Trump told The Hill.
In New Hampshire on Monday, responding to a reporter who said Emmer had not always been Trump’s biggest fan, the former president said: “I think he’s my biggest fan now because he called me yesterday, and he told me, ‘I’m your biggest fan,’ so I don’t know about that.”
“I’ve always gotten along with him,” Trump added of Emmer.
Emmer, for his part, spun Trump’s words into a positive.
“Thank you, Mr. President. If my colleagues elect me Speaker of the House, I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship,” Emmer wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Trump also spoke with Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas), sources confirmed to The Hill, in addition to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). Hern told CNN Trump “just wanted to know what was going on in the race” and said he thinks the former president is “gonna sit this one out.”
“I don’t,” Hern said when asked if he thinks Trump will endorse, “because all of us are friends of his.”
“I think when you look at this now, he’s gonna let this play out,” he added.
A source familiar said Sessions’s conversation with Trump was polite and went well, and Donalds said the former president is “focused on getting the nomination of our party.”
GOP Reps. Gary Palmer (Ala.), Jack Bergman (Mich.) and Austin Scott (Ga.) are also vying for the spot. Rep. Dan Meuser (Pa.) dropped out Monday night.
Despite the conversations, Trump was bearish on any of the candidates’ chances of winning the gavel.
“There’s only one person that can do it all the way. You know who that is? Jesus Christ,“ Trump said Monday. “If Jesus came down and said, ‘I want to be Speaker,’ he would do it. Other than that, I haven’t seen anybody that can guarantee it.”
As the conference remains divided and lawmakers are bearish on the group’s chances of uniting around a candidate, one Republican is trying to avoid another embarrassing floor fight that Jordan suffered last week — and that McCarthy endured in January.
Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) encouraged his colleagues to sign a pledge to back whomever the conference picks in its internal election on Tuesday. All candidates have signed it.
With the Speaker showdown headed into its third iteration, the pressure on lawmakers to come to a consensus is as high as ever.
The White House unveiled a roughly $100 billion supplemental request last week, which includes funding for Ukraine and Israel — amid their ongoing wars — in addition to the border and allies in the Indo-Pacific. And the Nov. 17 government funding deadline is creeping up.
Without a Speaker, the House is unable to conduct legislative business — leaving Congress hamstrung as two key priorities hang in the balance.
“It’s my 10th term in Congress,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, “this is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen because if we don’t have a speaker of the House, we can’t govern. And every day that goes by, we’re essentially shut down as a government.”
“We have very important issues right now, war and peace, and we cannot deal with an aid package, or my resolution condemning Hamas and supporting Israel,” he continued. “We can’t do that.”
Emily Brooks and Brett Samuels contributed.