G.O.P. Nominates Mike Johnson for House Speaker After Spurning Emmer

Divided House Republicans chose and then quickly repudiated yet another of their nominees for speaker on Tuesday and rushed to name a fourth, prolonging a remarkable three-week-long deadlock that has left Congress leaderless and paralyzed.

Representative Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, emerged Tuesday night as the latest contender for the post after Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 House Republican, dropped his bid only hours after securing the nomination. Mr. Emmer’s downfall followed a swift backlash from the right, including former President Donald J. Trump, that left his candidacy in shambles.

It was not clear whether Mr. Johnson could do any better, as dozens of House Republicans indicated they were not inclined to back him — or any candidate running.

Mr. Johnson got 128 votes in closed-door balloting, but 44 Republicans voted for nominees not on the ballot, including 43 votes for the ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom many view as unfairly deposed.

An up-or-down vote on whether Republicans would back Mr. Johnson on the floor was underway.

Mr. Emmer’s abrupt exit signaled that Republicans were as far as ever from resolving their impasse. It made Mr. Emmer the third Republican this month to be chosen to lead the party, only to have his bid collapse in a seemingly endless cycle of G.O.P. grievances, personality conflicts and ideological rifts.

Republicans have now succeeded in spurning all three of their top leaders over the past few weeks. The chamber has been frozen for the better part of a month as Republicans feud over who should be in charge, even as wars rage overseas and a government shutdown approaches.

By late Tuesday afternoon, they were back to the drawing board. Republicans huddled behind closed doors for the second evening in a row to hear from potential nominees and choose a candidate. They were prepared to go to the floor for a vote of the full House as soon as Wednesday if anyone could muster a majority, but it remained unclear if that was possible amid the current strife.

“It’s a pretty sad commentary on governance right now,” said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, adding: “The American public cannot be looking at this and having any reasonable confidence that this conference can be governed. It’s sad. I’m sad. I’m heartbroken.”

Tuesday’s breakdown was the latest evidence of the seemingly unending Republican dysfunction. Mr. Emmer began the day with a scant victory, winning an internal party nominating contest by a vote of 117 to 97 over Mr. Johnson. But the margin reflected that House Republicans were still deeply at odds.

Then immediately after Mr. Emmer’s nomination, about two dozen right-wing Republicans indicated that they would not vote for him on the floor, denying him the majority he would need to succeed in a vote of the full House. And as he met with holdouts to try to win them over, the former president issued a scathing statement on social media expressing vehement opposition to Mr. Emmer, calling him a “Globalist RINO” — short for “Republican in name only” — whose elevation would be a “tragic mistake.”

“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors,” Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social. “RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not 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!”

A majority of those opposed to Mr. Emmer were members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus and loyal to Mr. Trump. Any candidate for speaker can lose only a handful of votes and still win the speakership because Republicans hold such a small majority in the House.

Only hours later, Mr. Emmer told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he was dropping his bid, according to a person familiar with his decision who divulged the private discussion on the condition of anonymity. He then quickly left the room, avoiding reporters’ questions.

By Tuesday evening, five more Republicans, none with a national profile, were vying to for the nomination. Mr. Johnson won after multiple rounds of ballots, beating out Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, a member of the Freedom Caucus.

Mr. Johnson, 51, is a lawyer who is the former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

An evangelical Christian, Mr. Johnson was an architect of Republicans’ objections to certifying the victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Jan. 6, 2021. A member of the Judiciary Committee, he is an ally and supporter of its combative chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, and only considered moving forward with his own bid for speaker after Mr. Jordan fell short.

“He’s uniquely positioned to lose 30 votes on either side of the conference,” Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky said of Mr. Johnson before the vote. “Nobody dislikes Mike Johnson. He’s principled. He’s moral. But I think Jordan has a better chance of getting to 217 than Mike.”

The Republican disarray underscored a new ethos that has gripped the House G.O.P.: Dozens of members have abandoned the old norms of respecting the winner of the party’s internal elections, and instead are acting according to their individual preferences, ideologies and allegiances.

Some hard-right Republicans consider themselves a distinct political party from their more mainstream, business-minded colleagues, whom they accuse of being in a “uniparty” with Democrats.

The House has been in a state of uncertainty and chaos since Oct. 3, when rebels forced a vote to oust Mr. McCarthy as speaker. Eight Republicans backed that move along with Democrats, who remained united behind their own leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Republicans had cast aside two previous winners of their closed-door nominating process — Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio — before settling on Mr. Emmer.

Some on the right opposed to Mr. Emmer cited his vote in favor of codifying federal protections for same-sex couples. Others railed against Mr. Emmer’s vote in favor of a stopgap spending bill put forward by Mr. McCarthy, the speaker at the time, to avert a government shutdown. Still others said he was insufficiently loyal to Mr. Trump, because he voted to certify the results of the 2020 election won by President Biden.

Mr. Emmer had attempted to mollify Mr. Trump by calling him over the weekend and praising him, according to the former president. But Mr. Trump made clear he had not been won over.

“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?” Mr. Trump wrote. “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!”

Old rivalries also helped to tank Mr. Emmer’s speakership bid. Feelings remained raw from a contentious race for his current post against Representative Jim Banks of Indiana.

“I can’t go along with putting one of the most moderate members of the entire Republican conference in the speaker’s chair,” Mr. Banks said. “That betrays the conservative values that I came here to fight for.”

The current free-for-all left more mainstream members of the party fuming.

“Our conference has been essentially at war with itself,” said Representative Brandon Williams of New York, who represents a district won by President Biden. He called the situation “disheartening” and reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day.”

“Most of the country’s concerned about inflation, what they’re experiencing at the grocery store, and they would like to see Congress stand up and act like adults,” Mr. Williams said.

Catie Edmondson, Robert Jimison and Kayla Guo contributed reporting.

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