WASHINGTON (TBEN) — As Republican Rep. Tom Emmer puts it, the lousiest job he’s ever had — he has a saltier way of describing it — was leading the House Republican campaign committee.
But after returning his party to control of the House in November, the former youth hockey coach must now muster those Republicans’ votes, as a majority whip, to pass GOP priorities.
Rounding up colleagues for their support of the debt ceiling, spending cuts and investigating the Biden administration will be tough work for the third leader who has served in Congress since 2015. With Republicans holding just 222 seats in the 435-member House, almost everyone is needed to get the 218 votes needed to pass most bills.
I simply agreed to elect California Representative Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House by 15 ballots.
Emmer was a central negotiator in that effort, hammering out the side deal to win holdouts after endless meetings in his office on the first floor of the Capitol. It was a crash course for the budget battles and confrontations to come.
A look at how the rugged Minnesotan told The The Bharat Express News that he intends to get the job done.
SPEAKER ELECTION AS HOCKEYBRAWL
Prior to joining Congress, Emmer was an attorney and state legislator. However, some of his most applicable professional experience comes from coaching hockey.
When McCarthy failed to win the speaker’s race on the first vote, Emmer convened the holdouts in his still-new Capitol office, so bare that there are no pictures on the walls.
“Good teams will always have disagreements,” said Emmer. “If you don’t let them express that, you’re never going to succeed.”
Emmer told the story of a legendary hockey coach who had players duke it out during practices—almost encouragingly, he said—much like how Republicans nearly came to blows on the House floor during the election of speaker.
“You know what, these guys are actually closing in,” Emmer said.
FIGHT FOR BUDGET BATTLES
Emmer is not part of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Some Republicans didn’t even think he was conservative enough for the leadership position.
But he won his own internal GOP election to become the whip and push back two challengers. When it came time to close the deal for McCarthy’s election, Emmer had to win over some of those same conservative holdouts.
One of many major concessions McCarthy made to earn his opponents’ votes was a commitment to return to federal spending to the 2022 budget level. Cuts of that size would amount to an 8% cut in domestic spending. defense, veterans and domestic bills — or even more, 17%, if the Pentagon money is spared.
Republicans also agreed to aim for a balanced budget in 10 years.
From Emmer’s point of view, much of what has been agreed with the holdouts is “ambitious.”
“Some might criticize me when I say it’s an ambitious document because they think it’s more than that, and they’re right,” Emmer said. “Because we have to stick to that now.”
SPEAKER BOEHNER, SPEAKER RYAN AND DEBT CEILINGS PAST
One of the biggest challenges Emmer faces is rounding up the vote for the upcoming debt ceiling confrontation.
Congress is being asked by the Treasury Department to raise the country’s debt ceiling so that it can borrow more money to pay off the country’s already mounting bills.
House Republicans insist they won’t lift that cap without changes to how the federal government spends money — most likely through spending cuts. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an interview with the The Bharat Express News on Saturday that she expects Congress to eventually vote to raise the limit. But she said GOP demands for spending cuts in exchange for backing an increase are “a deeply irresponsible act” and risk creating a “self-imposed disaster” for the global economy.
It’s a replay of the battles the Republicans fought the last time they had the majority in the House, then Reps. Ohio’s John Boehner and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan were the speakers during the Obama and Trump administrations. In those days, Republicans tried to curb federal spending, with some success but also failures that disappointed the right wing.
That decades-old spending battle simmers on Capitol Hill, especially for conservatives, which is why the Freedom Caucus and others negotiated such a hard bargain with McCarthy during the speaker’s race.
“A lot of them were personality issues that probably started from when John Boehner was the speaker and then Paul Ryan,” Emmer said of Dynamics.
“And a lot has just happened in recent years.”
SAVING DEFENSE DECISIONS
Republicans have different views when it comes to spending cuts, as they try to use the debt ceiling vote to determine their own budget priorities.
While some say they want all spending on the table for review, Emmer is among those who think defense should be largely spared.
“The argument is that if you go to the FY22 baseline, it affects both home affairs and defense — not among Republicans,” he said, referring to 2022 budget levels. “Republicans will be looking for efficiency, they will be looking for are to waste. We don’t cut off the defense. We insured our owners and asked our House Armed Services Committee. That’s not what we do.”
THE BEST, WORST JOB
After helping to choose the class of new House Republicans, Emmer must now help lead them.
The reason he didn’t like his old job as campaign chairman was because he had to be the “attack dog,” as he put it, always attacking. He also had to serve the Republican candidates well. He twice headed the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The job of the GOP whip?
“Contrary to popular belief, it’s much the same thing,” he said — a lot of listening and a lot of responding.
“The beauty of having 222 (House Republicans) is that every vote matters,” he said. “So you respect everyone, you respect their opinion. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t even have to like them. That’s not the problem. But you have to respect them.”
And so what is the strategy for going over the debt ceiling or bills?
“I’ll have our members tell you a plan,” Emmer said. “It’s our job to make sure that once that plan is ready for primetime, we get it across the finish line.”