House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Republican from Minnesota, speaks to members of the media following a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The field of Republicans running to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives narrowed to two on Tuesday, after several candidates dropped out while the party continues to vote to select their next nominee.
Originally, there were nine candidates but the field has been winnowed to Republican Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana.
The House GOP’s closed-door meeting began at 9 a.m. ET. Interim Speaker Patrick McHenry has said the nominee could face a vote before the House floor as soon as Tuesday.
It is unclear if either man can secure the 217 Republican votes needed on the House floor. The nominee can only afford to lose four GOP votes, as Democrats have lined up in lockstep behind their nominee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
The House has been leaderless for three weeks now, which has left Congress paralyzed and unable to move forward with spending legislation as a Nov. 17 deadline looms to avoid a government shutdown. Congress is also unable to respond to President Joe Biden’s call for emergency security assistance for Israel and Ukraine until the House elects a speaker.
Emmer has the backing for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“He sets himself head and shoulders above all those others who want to run,” McCarthy said of Emmer in an interview with NBC News on Sunday. “We need to get him elected this week and move on and bring this not just party together but focus on what this country needs most.”
Emmer also spoke by phone with Donald Trump on Monday, though the former president has not endorsed the majority whip.
“I’m sort of trying to stay out of that as much as possible, but they’ll get it straightened out,” Trump told reporters on Monday.
Emmer voted to certify Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory. Johnson did not.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was forced to abandon his bid on Friday after his nomination failed in three separate votes. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the original nominee, pulled his candidacy before even facing the House floor after it became clear he did not have the votes.
The House leadership crisis was triggered by a faction of eight Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who ousted McCarthy in a historically unprecedented no-confidence vote. Democrats refused to save McCarthy’s speakership, leading to the California Republican’s downfall.
–CNBC’s Emily Wilkins contributed to this report.