Minnesota's Tom Emmer chosen as No. 3 House Republican

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota won Republicans' backing for the third-ranking position in the U.S. House, a position Emmer coveted after leading Republicans' campaign efforts during the midterm election.

Emmer's House GOP conference chose him as majority whip in Tuesday's leadership election. Republicans held the election as they were on the cusp of regaining the majority. Several races have not yet been called, but the balance of power was certain to tip the GOP's way.

Emmer won the No. 3 position on the third ballot in a closed-door House GOP meeting, defeating U.S. Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Drew Ferguson of Georgia. 

"We will be the only check on the Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled Senate over the next 2 years," Emmer told reporters Tuesday. "We’re excited to get to work. We’re excited to be back in the majority."

Emmer had the inside track when it appeared that Republicans would experience a red wave in last week's election. But the GOP picked up far fewer seats than expected, leading some Republicans to criticize their campaign operations.

Emmer has chaired the House GOP's campaign arm for the past two election cycles, picking up seats in 2020 despite President Joe Biden's win. That positioned the party to retake the chamber in the 2022 midterms, albeit by a narrower margin than Republicans hoped.

"I thought that might hurt him in what was always going to be a competitive bid for the whip position," said Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota political science professor who specializes in congressional elections. "But I think relationships are key to understanding why he won."

The whip's job is to deliver the 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the House. The position requires a combination of personal relationships, pressure tactics, and dangling carrots to ensure members comply with the party leadership's goals.

Emmer's role takes on added importance because the GOP will hold such a narrow majority in Congress starting in January, Pearson said.

"It will be hard for party leaders to get 218 votes because some members may find that the legislation isn't conservative enough -- or is too conservative -- so it will be Rep. Emmer's job to make sure that those concerns are addressed to get to that 218th vote," she said.

While Republicans will have a narrow hold on the House, Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate and White House. The division makes significant policy measures unlikely to pass over the next two years.

Emmer's ascent to the No. 3 position in the House marks another rung on a political comeback. He lost the 2010 Minnesota governor's race to Democrat Mark Dayton in an election that was so close it triggered a recount.

Emmer won his first election to Congress in 2014. Voters in the west and north Twin Cities suburbs re-elected him last week to his fifth term.