WASHINGTON – Republicans in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday chose Mr Tom Emmer as their nominee for Speaker in a bid to find a consensus candidate as they aim for a third time to fill a leadership vacuum that has paralysed the chamber for three weeks.
Mr Emmer, who currently serves as the No. 3 Republican in the House, won the nomination in a fifth round of voting, lawmakers said.
His next test is to secure 217 votes from the 221-member caucus, a high bar intended to ensure Republicans can elect a Speaker without relying on Democratic votes.
He bested eight other Republicans who had sought the post.
Republicans have already rejected two prior Speaker nominees, leaving the chamber leaderless since Oct 3.
Some lawmakers said they were eager to bury their differences after three weeks of infighting.
But others said they would not necessarily line up behind whoever wins the nomination.
“If we’ve got a weak speaker, that’s not going to play well,” said Mr Ralph Norman, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, before the final vote.
Mr Emmer can point to leadership and campaign fund-raising experience that normally would make him a strong candidate for the post.
Republicans have already rejected two leaders with those skills.
Mr Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker by a small group of Republican insurgents on Oct 3, and his No. 2, Mr Steve Scalise, dropped his own bid the following week when he was unable to line up enough votes to win the job.
Republicans picked another hard-right leader, Mr Jim Jordan, as their nominee last week but dropped him after he lost three floor votes.
Some of those who voted against Mr Jordan last reported getting death threats.
The infighting has left the House unable to respond to President Joe Biden’s US$106 billion (S$145.5 billion) request for aid to Israel, Ukraine and US border security.
Congress will also have to act before a Nov 17 deadline to fund the US government and avert a partial shutdown.
The uncertainty has also helped to push up the United States government’s borrowing costs.
The government posted a record US$1.7 trillion deficit for the most recent fiscal year, in part due to higher interest payments.
“Washington needs a Republican voice right now. We don’t have one,” said Representative Kelly Armstrong. “That’s not anybody else’s fault but the Republican conference in the US House of Representatives.”
Republicans control the House by a narrow 221-212 margin, which means they can afford no more than four defections on partisan votes. Some 25 Republicans voted against Mr Jordan’s speaker bid on Friday.
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