The House GOP's latest Speaker nominee might be undone by a single vote: the one he cast to certify the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), the House GOP’s Majority Whip, beat six other candidates on Tuesday to become the party’s third Speaker nominee in the three weeks since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed. But it didn’t take long before Emmer’s chances seemed to go up in smoke.
The Minnesota Republican had been the nominee for barely an hour before Republicans began questioning him over his decision to uphold the 2020 election result after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6—and it was about two hours before Donald Trump himself issued a blistering statement against Emmer and likely ended his chances.
Even before Trump knifed Emmer, the House’s No. 3 Republican was already in big trouble. During a private meeting where lawmakers aired their concerns to Emmer, several said his 2020 certification vote was raised with some frequency—perhaps no surprise in a party where baseless election fraud conspiracies remain core beliefs.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, said Emmer's vote to certify was a sticking point for his detractors.
“I mean that’s a big issue, right?” said Williams. “I'm one of those who voted not to accept the results of the electoral college. That's an issue with some because he voted to accept.”
According to Williams, Emmer deflected concerns about his certification vote by pointing to the need for Republicans to focus on winning the 2024 election.
“He’s saying that we need to focus on 2024 and I agree with him,” Williams continued. “Will Rogers said, ‘Don't look back, we ain’t going that way.’ That's kind of where we are.”
Although he wouldn’t go into detail, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who himself ran for Speaker and voted against certifying the 2020 results, also said Emmer’s vote was discussed, but he wouldn’t expand on details.
“We're trying to resolve matters, not bring them out here and fight about it,” Sessions said. “And I don't want to be a part of that fight. I want to be a part of the resolution.”
Speaking to Fox News, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) also indicated that the 2020 election was a major point of contention in the meeting.
Notably, it’s hardly as if Emmer is a Big Lie dissenter in the mold of Liz Cheney.
In the wake of the 2020 election, Emmer amplified unproven claims of fraud to cast doubt on President Joe Biden’s victory. He also signed his name to an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to throw out the election results in several battleground states which Biden won.
Still, Emmer’s 2020 election vote exemplifies what members worry will become a rift between a future speaker and future president. Trump doused gasoline on those concerns—and lit the match that might end Emmer’s speaker chances—with a Truth Social post after the Minnesotan secured the nomination.
“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them,” Trump said.
Trump then blasted Emmer’s handling of the GOP’s House elections during two-cycle tenure as the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman—a role in which Emmer worked closely with Trump and his team.
“I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure?,” Trump asked. “Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win? The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that’s not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake.”
The takedown is a departure from Trump’s rhetoric just yesterday. The former president told reporters he wouldn’t weigh in on the speaker’s race and relayed that Emmer called him to tell him, “I’m your biggest fan.”
Some Republican lawmakers minimized Emmer’s role in the 2020 election certifications as a factor in the speaker vote. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), who objected to the 2020 certification, insisted that Emmer’s vote nearly three years ago “wasn’t the issue” in the room.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), another objector, said he hadn’t heard concerns about the 2020 election during the conference meeting. He said the biggest sticking points for Emmer holdouts were in other areas. House conservatives surely don’t love Emmer’s past support of sending aid to Ukraine, for instance.
“It's all across the board. More policy-related than it is leadership-related,” Loudermilk said. “And I think what we've got to do is separate that the speaker is really not a policy position. It's a leadership position.”
But with Trump likely putting the nail in the coffin for Emmer’s speakership bid, it’s hard not to see how his decision to not overturn the 2020 election played a decisive factor.