Majority Whip Tom Emmer's bid for speaker lasted only four hours before he withdrew in the face of strong opposition from a number of right-wing members of the House Republican conference.
Mr Emmer won the nomination for speaker on Tuesday after five rounds of internal voting, but it quickly became clear he would fall short of the 217 votes needed on the floor of the House.
Mr. Emmer and Representative Mike Johnson were the bottom two on the internal ballot after Representative Kevin Hearn was eliminated in the fourth round and Representative Byron Donalds voluntarily withdrew.
Shortly after Emmer received the support of other Republican members of Congress, former President Donald Trump — who had spent the day sitting in a New York courtroom on fraud charges — launched a furious attack on him.
Mr Trump wrote on his social media platform: “I have a lot of great friends who want to be Speaker of the House and some are really great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I don't know well, is not one of them. He never respected the power of a Trump endorsement or the breadth and scope of MAGA—MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”.
He added: “I think he's learned his lesson now, because he says he's pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure? Has it only changed because that's what it takes to win? The Republican Party can't take that chance because America's first voters aren't there. Voting for a globalized RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!”
Mr. Emmer, who joined the House after winning his seat in 2014 after spending six years in the state legislature and losing a tight race for Minnesota governor in 2010, won the first round of voting for the president's nomination after received 78 votes, with Mr. Johnson. comes second with 34 votes.
Mr Emmer's lead increased in the second round, gaining 12 votes. Johnson remained second, earning three votes. In the third ballot, Mr. Emmer got 100 votes, 107 in the fourth and finally 117 in the fifth.
The GOP spent hours behind closed doors at a candidate forum Monday night.
Nine candidates were suggested as possible choices – Messrs. Donalds, Johnson, Jack Bergman, Hearn, Dan Meuser, Gary Palmer, Pete Sessions, Austin Scott and Emmer.
Earlier Tuesday, spokesman Jim Banks said The independent that Mr. Emmer had been “far away” from speaking since Tuesday afternoon. “He has a lot of work to do.”
Asked what his concerns were about Mr Emmer, he said: “I could have voted for any of the others who put themselves on the floor today, but I can't vote for someone who doesn't have a conservative record.”
Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the first nominee since the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, chose not to go to the floor after private conversations revealed he did not have the necessary support – Mr Emmer chose the same route.
With only 221 members in a body of 433 – the House has two vacancies – Mr Emmer could only lose four.
Republicans hope to appoint a new speaker this week as government funding runs out on Nov. 17 and President Joe Biden is asking Congress for more than $100 billion to help both Ukraine and Israel.
“People are locked in, he explains his position,” said Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee. The independent before Mr. Emmer ended his bid. “I would hope that he would be able to enter the chamber with only those people who can stand it and that would be the way to go.”
Mr. Burchett was one of eight Republicans who joined with every Democrat to oust Mr. McCarthy, but he voted for Emmer.
“He's the overwhelming voter,” Mr. Burchett said of Mr. Emmer.
Mr. Emmer has worked hard in recent days to overcome the notion that he did not sufficiently support Mr. Trump. However, his efforts seem to have been in vain.
Those close to Mr Trump began targeting the Minnesota lawmaker in the media on Friday, with a far-right outlet Real America's Voice declaring that Mr. Emmer is “Nancy Pelosi in a suit.”
A former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2020 and 2022 cycles, Mr. Emmer worked to recruit many of the Republicans who helped Republicans flip the House. But Republicans were still chronically underperforming despite winning back the majority in 2022.
Emmer and his staff worked overtime over the weekend making phone calls, including one with Trump. The call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Emmer has been described as cordial, even as Trump has been telling aides that he does not want Mr. Emer as speaker, annoyed by his 2020 certification vote and believing that was not adequately defending him publicly amid his widening legal woes.
The former president is also said to be annoyed with Mr. Emmer for advising before the 2022 midterm elections that GOP candidates should avoid focusing on Mr. Trump during their campaign.
“Will you support Emer? Wasn't he always your biggest fan…” a reporter asked Trump in New Hampshire on Monday.
“He's my biggest fan now because he called me yesterday and said he's my biggest fan, so … I'm trying to stay out of it as much as possible,” Trump said. He is reported to have spoken to several speaker candidates over the weekend.
Mr Emmer shared a quote on Trump's X that mentioned their phone call over the weekend in an attempt to reassure his team that he has a good “working relationship” with Mr Trump.
“If my colleagues elect me Speaker of the House, I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship,” Mr Emer wrote to X on Monday.
A spokesman for Mr Emmer said Politico that “Whip Emmer worked hand-in-hand with President Trump to help House Republicans fire Nancy Pelosi and regain the majority.”
“If he becomes speaker, Whip Emmer looks forward to continuing this productive relationship,” the spokesman added.
Previously, pundits who supported Mr. Trump, such as his former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, had promoted the idea that Mr. Emmer is a Washington insider with no real connection to the MAGA movement.
“Tom Emmer, the biggest Trumper ever in the House, a guy who hates Donald Trump,” Bannon said. War room podcast on Friday.
“Here's the chance of Tom Emmer being the speaker – zero,” he said.
Islamophobic far-right influencer Laura Loomer posted that Emmer is “one of the worst members of Congress” and “essentially a Democrat.”