Rep. Tom Emmer vying for promotion to majority leader post

Tom Emmer,Anthony D'Esposito,Steve Scalise
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 10.
Patrick Semansky | AP

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer will vie for the role of House majority leader amid a shakeup that follows the ouster of the chamber’s speaker, a Republican source with direct information told MPR News on Wednesday.

Emmer’s plan is contingent on who replaces Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker. Current House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana threw his name into contention for speaker, a bid Emmer is backing. 

Should Scalise win over other announced or possible candidates, that would topple dominoes beneath him that would give Emmer an opening to move up.

Emmer is currently the No. 3 Republican in House leadership as majority whip. He has made several calls to colleagues as of Wednesday afternoon in an effort to move up the ranks of leadership, the person familiar with Emmer’s operation said.

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No Minnesota member has ever held a position that high up in the U.S. House.

The shuffling follows a vote Tuesday that left the speaker position vacant. McCarthy, of California, was pushed aside after 10 months in the role on a close vote where eight, right-flank Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting his removal.

Some Republicans, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and others who were instrumental in taking McCarthy down, have floated Emmer’s name as a potential candidate for speaker. But Emmer has dismissed those overtures for now.

Emmer is in his fifth term in the House representing a central Minnesota district. Before ascending to majority whip — the main vote wrangler for the Republicans – he led the GOP’s campaign efforts for two election cycles. 

His role as National Republican Congressional Committee chair made him a familiar face to many who decide who gets the leadership jobs. Emmer helped recruit some of the new members and is known for his personal touch in dealing with lawmakers throughout the fractious caucus.

A vote on the speaker role is anticipated next week in Washington.

Republicans are aiming to get a new speaker in place next week, but the process of securing the minimum 218 votes could be tricky. Republicans hold 221 seats to 212 for Democrats, with two vacancies.

When McCarthy was elected in January, it took 15 rounds of voting and ample concessions on his part, including the rule change that made it easier to eventually remove him.

There could be some extra pressure to move quickly since lawmakers have a Nov. 17 deadline to pass federal budget bills or force a government shutdown.