The House of Representatives has a new majority whip in town, and he’s used to playing in barnburners.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., is an attorney, former hockey player and coach, a father of seven, and the number three GOP lawmaker in the House this Congress. He took the reins from now-House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La.
Coming into the position after leading the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in the last election cycle, Emmer says he is a “team guy” who hails from a “big hockey factory.”
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The House Majority Whip said he learned to negotiate through his work as an attorney, but starting a youth hockey team in Delano, Minnesota, in the 1990s is where he cut his teeth in getting people to work together.
“And we literally started because I recognized you’ve got all these competing entities, much like you have in Congress,” Emmer said. “I had to become a member of the local Youth Hockey board. Then I had to become a member of the board that ran the ice arena, so we could control our own ice time.”
“Then I had to become a member of the District Hockey Board that was in charge of the region that our community was part of. Then I had to become part of… Minnesota Hockey, which is under the umbrella of USA Hockey,” he continued. “Why? Because we had to get them all talking to each other.”
Emmer said that, 30 years later, the program in the town that “was not recognized in the sport at all” is consistently making the state championships.
The House majority whip was first bitten by the political bug in the early 90s when Emmer — an attorney at the time — and his wife, Jackie, were living in an old converted country hotel with “200-year-old” oak and maple trees in the front yard when the local public works team marked the trees to be felled for a new road the next day.
The whip said his wife was “devastated” by the development because you “just don’t get stuff like that in town” and Emmer called the mayor, a farmer, who drove to the congressman’s property at 10 p.m. “in his old, beat-up Cadillac Fleetwood” and put his lights on the trees.
The mayor whipped out his brick cell phone and called the head of public works to save the trees by moving the road 80 feet into the farm field.
“And after he did that, I was like, ‘oh, well, this is the way it works,’ because the next thing that came was a sewer line that I didn’t need,” Emmer said. “We had two acres, we had a young family, and I was getting assessed tens of thousands of dollars for a sewer that I didn’t need and I didn’t want.”
“And that’s literally what got me involved running,” he added.
Emmer also said he thinks politics “starts from the second you’re born” but “you don’t always recognize what you’re developing” when you develop your political “tools” along the way.
The Minnesota Republican said that, when it comes to policy, for him “it’s all about Main Street business, mom-and-pop businesses all across this country.”
“It’s about entrepreneurs that have the next great idea, no matter what that is, so they can access capital and actually, not only create a better life for themselves, but think of the advances that they make that improve our lives,” Emmer said.
Emmer said that his work addressing mental health issues and addiction is “not going to stop.”
“We’ve got a crisis in this country when it comes to mental health in general. And it started for me years ago with the problems we have with our servicemen and women who come back from different conflicts,” the GOP whip said. “And we’ve got a suicide issue in the military with our veterans.”
Emmer also said that there are suicide and mental health issues in the farming community and that America doesn’t “have enough fair treatment options for people who may not be in dense urban areas.”
The new House majority whip came into his role amid a chaotic race for chamber speaker, backing now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California as 21 GOP holdouts used the slim majority to force multiple ballots over the course of a week.
Emmer said that McCarthy “got himself elected speaker of the House” and that all he and other GOP leaders did during the election was to “make sure that people who are committed to conservative commonsense approaches” could “all get in the room together and talk about what they wanted.”
In terms of agenda, Emmer said the House GOP’s top priorities are holding the Biden administration “accountable” and “making sure that we stop some of the insanity, whether it’s the spending, it’s the open southern border, all the things that they’ve done to destroy American energy independence and, frankly, drive inflation that we haven’t seen in four decades plus.”
“I think those are our priorities. Making sure that we not only respect, but we encourage the appropriate funding — not necessarily federal — state and local of our men and women who wear the uniform and protect us every day in law enforcement,” Emmer said.
“I think those are the priorities, but I’m not going to step on Kevin McCarthy’s toes,” the whip continued. “He’s got the Commitment to America. We’re going to honor those promises. And our job here at the whip team is to make sure that we can perform.”
Emmer also highlighted the House’s new China task force — “which will literally hunt down members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who have been meddling with our domestic affairs here in this country” — and the new House Oversight subcommittee into the origins of COVID-19.
“That COVID origin committee is going to be really important because Americans, frankly, they’re tired of Biden’s soft on China policies. They want to they want answers. They want to know where this thing came from, and they want to make sure that we’re holding the Chinese abuses, if you will, accountable, that we’re doing something about it. And I do think what we’ve seen just this week shows that we’re going to do that. We’re here literally to deliver where Democrats have failed consistently over the last two years when it comes to China.”
Emmer said he is “very concerned” about the classified documents found in President Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, garage as well as the Penn Biden Center think tank in Washington, D.C., but that he will leave the investigations to his colleagues, House Oversight and Judiciary Committees chairmen James Comer, R-Ky., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
“Why wasn’t that disclosed to the American public when it was discovered two weeks before the election, before the midterm? Why did we hold on to it again?” Emmer said. “What is going on around here that people seem to be politicizing all of this for purposes of elections, protecting one side of the equation and frankly, holding the other side to a different standard.”
“Mar-A-Lago was handled completely different,” Emmer said, saying that before he comments on what documents were there, he wants “to know what it is and I also want to know how it got there.”
“Remember, a president can declassify, a vice president cannot,” Emmer said. “So, if a president has classified documents that he has declassified because he had that ability to do that, that’s one thing. If a vice president took classified documents, he would not have any authority to declassify that or, our current vice president, she.”
Emmer recalled words from an old professor of his when asked for his advice for people looking to get politically involved: “the world is run by those who show up.” He also recalled his wife’s encouragement of him to run for Minnesota state House in 2004.
“My wife is the one who told me back in 2004 when I said, ‘Oh, look, our state rep is not going to run again for reelection,’” Emmer said. “And she said, ‘Well, you should do that.’”
“And I said, ‘Why in God’s name would I do that?’ At age 40, 41, whenever it was. Prime earning time. Seven kids,” the whip continued. “And I think Jackie’s statement was something to the effect of, ‘Aren’t you the one that says that if you’re not willing to do something about it, you should keep your mouth shut?’”
The whip also said that if someone makes the decision to run, they should “go where you think you’re needed or you can best serve,” but the country needs “people who understand that it’s not just your point of view, it’s everyone’s point of view.”
“It’s not just your personality. This is a battle of ideas, this is not a battle of people. And I think if we’re going to solve the problems that this country is facing right now — part of it is about self-governance, the greatest experiment in self-governance that the world has ever seen. We’re going to have to get back to a place where, while we may have disagreements, we know how to treat each other civilly, and we know how to debate over ideas. And I would say to my conservative friends, our ideas are better than their ideas. Our ideas work.”
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“So let’s debate the ideas. Let’s debate putting people back in charge of the decisions that they make for themselves and their families. Let’s put the balance back on the individual as opposed to on the entity known as government, and I think we’re going to get much better results.”
“Try to educate yourself as to how you can win people over to your ideas,” Emmer said. “Because if you show up and you just say, ‘It’s my way or the highway,’ we don’t get very far. And by the way, our ideas are better, and they work.”