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Emmer wins contested House leadership race; projected majority whip

Emmer was selected majority whip by members of the GOP conference on a second ballot. He would be the third Minnesotan ever to hold the position of GOP whip.

Rep. Tom Emmer talks to press after clinching the majority whip post.
MinnPost photo by Ana Radelat.

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Emmer on Tuesday fulfilled his ambition to rise in his party’s ranks, becoming the No. 3 member of the Republican House leadership in the next Congress.

Emmer was selected majority whip by members of the GOP conference on a second ballot, cast anonymously by Republicans who will serve in the next Congress.

Emmer bested Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the influential head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives that have an outsized role in influencing House GOP policy. The vote was won 115-106.

A party’s whip tallies up support for a bill, and sometimes needs to strong-arm lawmakers to secure enough votes for the legislation to pass. Those skills will be greatly needed by House GOP leaders since it is on the way to a narrow majority and has several factions that are at odds with each other on certain policies.

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“While we fell short in our campaign for whip, I promise I will continue to be a conservative fighter in the Congress,” Banks said in a concession statement. “During past majorities, House Republicans have failed to deliver on our commitments. Next Congress, I will do everything I can to make sure Republicans keep our promises and advance a conservative and America First agenda.

Emmer, meanwhile, garnered support from both his party’s conservative and moderate members.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., nominated Emmer for the post, while Rep.-elect Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., seconded the nomination.

Winning House re-election last week, Emmer has represented Minnesota’s 6th District since 2015. His Republican-leaning district includes most of the Twin Cities’ far northern suburbs and the surrounding cities and rural areas of Benton, Carver, Sherburne, Stearns, Wright, Anoka and Washington counties.

A former lawyer, member of the state Legislature and hockey coach, Emmer ran for governor in 2010 but lost to Democrat Mark Dayton. He was criticized by some loyalists to former President Trump for voting to certify the results of the 2020 election, which resulted in Joe Biden’s presidency. He also provoked some members of his party for voting for a bill that would protect same-sex marriages.

Republicans on Tuesday also elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as their nominee for speaker. But McCarthy, who was running against Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., won only 188 votes. That’s enough for the nomination because that requires a simple majority among Republicans. McCarthy will  need at least 218, or more than half of the votes of  all House members present — both Republicans and Democrats –to win the speakership of the next Congress in January. Since no Democrat will support McCarthy, he could have a problem.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who serves as the current GOP whip, was unanimously voted majority leader.

As head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Emmer was in charge of recruiting Republican challengers in House races throughout the country and poured millions of dollars into efforts to unseat Democratic incumbents. Those incumbents included Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd, who like many of the Democrats targeted by Emmer, won her race.

The party in control of the White House tends to suffer significant losses in midterm elections. But this year, Democrats picked up seats in many state legislatures – flipping Minnesota’s state Senate from red to blue – added to the party’s roster of governors and kept their party’s control of the U.S. Senate.

The GOP did win the U.S. House, but by a paper thin margin, failing to flip the scores of seats Emmer and other Republicans had predicted. Still, in a pitch to fellow Republicans Monday afternoon, Emmer adopted an optimistic tone about the election results.

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“People are happy because they are going to be in the majority,” he said.

Emmer focused on his successful efforts to cut the Democratic majority in the House in 2020 and helped flip the House last week, although an official count has not been completed.

“We will be the only check on the Biden administration,” Emmer said.

McCarthy on Tuesday also said the important thing was winning the majority, not the size of the margin of victory.

“They don’t hand gavels out in small, medium and large,” McCarthy said.

But he also said “Did we want something much bigger? Yes we did.”

Emmer trailed in the first ballot for whip, in which Banks received 81 votes, Emmer received 72 and a third candidate that was eliminated on the second ballot, Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia, received 71.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, GOP disappointment with the party’s failure to win the Senate was evident. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced a challenge to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has led Republicans since 2007.

Emmer would be the third Minnesotan to hold the position of GOP whip.

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The very first Republican whip was a Minnesotan, James A. Tawney, who was appointed, not elected. He kept track of the whereabouts of Republican lawmaker for Speaker Thomas Reed of Maine, who like the next GOP speaker, had a slim majority.

Meanwhile, Harold Knutson, another Minnesotan, served as Republican whip from 1919 to 1923.