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D.C. Memo: Will Trump hurt Tom Emmer’s expected bid for House majority leader?

Plus: Stormy weather for ever-optimistic Rep. Dean Phillips; a challenger to Rep. Michelle Fischbach’s right.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer talking to reporters as he departs a meeting with the Texas Republican House delegation on Wednesday morning.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer talking to reporters as he departs a meeting with the Texas Republican House delegation on Wednesday morning.
REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

WASHINGTON – Infighting among U.S. House Republicans continued after the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy with several contentious battles over whom should lead the House GOP, including one centered on U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer’s expected bid to become majority leader.

Emmer currently holds the No. 3 position as majority whip but wants to climb to the No. 2 job in GOP leadership, although he has not officially announced his candidacy. 

The problem for Emmer is that one of President Trump’s closest allies in the U.S. House, who holds the No. 4 position in the GOP House leadership, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, also wants to be the next majority leader. Trump has already been calling House Republicans, saying they should not support Emmer.

Meanwhile, Trump allies are moving to whip up support for Stefanik. Some are publicly announcing their support for Emmer’s rival.

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“@RepStefanik is an America First fighter and respected leader who can unite our conference,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I’d love to see her as Majority Leader sooner than later.”

When the House GOP held its initial leadership election last November, Banks lost  narrowly to Emmer in the race for majority whip.

Other Trump-supporting House Republicans say they are rankled by Emmer’s decision to vote to certify the 2020 elections and his advice to candidates as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee to distance themselves from Trump if they need to do that to win. 

The current majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, is running to replace McCarthy as Speaker. But so is Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, leader of the impeachment inquiry into President Biden and founding member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus.

To make things even more complicated, Trump is being drafted by some House Republicans to run for Speaker (being a current member of Congress is not a job requirement). The former president said on Thursday that he’s thinking about attending a candidate forum next Tuesday that will give all Republicans running for GOP leadership jobs a chance to make pitches for support.

The current plan is to hold GOP leadership elections on Wednesday, but that could shift considering the unpredictable state of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

This from Punchbowl News:

“To be clearwe’re skeptical that either Jordan or his main rival, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, can garner the 218 votes necessary to become speaker. That doesn’t mean they won’t; it just means it’ll be very difficult. We also think that the speaker election could stretch beyond next Wednesday’s current deadline.”

Stormy weather for ever-optimistic Phillips

It’s not only Kevin McCarthy who has had a run of bad political luck lately. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, is having a tough week, too. 

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Phillips resigned form his Democratic leadership role as vice-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee saying his “convictions about 2024” are “incongruent” with the position of his Democratic colleagues. Phillips has said Biden is too old to run for reelection and he’s considering challenging the president himself.

Phillips’ “convictions about 2024” also prompted Ron Harris, a former Al Franken campaign aide and Democratic National Committee member, to announce Thursday that he is weighing a primary challenge of Phillips.

“As Dean considers a run for President, I’m exploring a run for Congress to ensure this district stays in Democratic hands,” Harris announced on X. “Toward that end, I’d love to hear about issues important to you and what you think our community needs. Shoot me a note!”

And there was more trouble for Phillips this week. The Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers that Phillips is closely involved with, may soon not exist. Its Republican members are furious that centrist Democrats in the caucus, including Phillips, did no cross the line this week to vote for McCarthy and save his leadership. They plan to meet next week to consider all leaving the caucus, making the group obsolete.

After the Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus expressed their anger at their Democratic colleagues, Phillips indicated he might be willing to vote for anyone – Republican or Democrat – to succeed McCarthy, if it he thought it was the right candidate. 

“I care deeply about restoring faith in government, which is why I’ll consider any Speaker candidate of competency and integrity who’s willing to place people and principle over politics, improve the institution of Congress, and lead America to bipartisan higher ground,” Phillips posted on X.

Fischbach draws primary challenger 

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-7th District, was also faced with a new challenge this week as a businessman from Alexandria announced he would run against her in next week’s GOP primary.

Steve Boyd, who says he’s a “Christian, conservative, husband and father of five” is running to Fischbach’s right. Ousting Fischbach would be quite a feat because the congresswoman is considered among the most conservative members of the U.S. House.

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Boyd, who owns a turf management and mosquito control company, said he’s running to “take on issues that many of our current leaders aren’t willing to address.”

“We live in a Congressional district that votes overwhelmingly for Republican candidates,” Boyd said in a statement. “We should be championing issues that matter to ordinary conservatives, especially fighting back against the left’s war on Christianity and our Constitution.”

Fischbach, a former lieutenant governor who was elected to Congress in 2020, is a fierce anti-abortion advocate who has quietly earned the respect of many of her GOP colleagues and of the Republican House leadership, who have put her on the key House Ways and Means and House Rules committees.

Your questions and comments

I received some interesting emails from readers about the unprecedented ousting of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week and the scramble to establish a new House GOP leadership. For instance, reader Joel Stegner weighed in with this about Emmer’s possible rise in the ranks in an email that asked “promotion or curse?” in its subject line:

“Being the captain or first mate on the Titanic was no blessing. Like trying to read cats with a bad temper and sharp claws.”

Please keep your comments, and any questions, coming. I’ll try my best to respond. Please contact me at

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