US Republican Emmer has backed Ukraine aid, but will he be speaker?

U.S. House of Representatives meet to choose new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ukraine's prospects for more emergency U.S. aid got a boost on Tuesday when Republicans nominated Tom Emmer to lead the House of Representatives, but any celebration might be premature because he may lack the votes to become speaker.

The House has been without a speaker since Oct. 3, when eight Republicans joined Democrats to oust Kevin McCarthy, the first time a U.S. speaker has been removed from the position.

McCarthy's removal raised concerns about whether Washington would continue sending billions to the Kyiv government. Many of McCarthy's potential successors have opposed sending more assistance to Kyiv, in addition to the $113 billion already approved since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Emmer, the chamber's No. 3 Republican, became the latest nominee to succeed McCarthy after failed bids by the number two, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan.

Emmer has been seen as a strong supporter of assisting Ukraine in it war with Russia. A "report card" by the conservative Defending Democracy Together's "Republicans for Ukraine" campaign gave Emmer an "A excellent" rating, based on his past votes.

However, Emmer appeared at least 20 votes short of the 217 he would need to win the speakers gavel.

Jordan received an "F very poor" rating, as did Representative Mike Johnson, the last speaker candidate eliminated before Emmer became the nominee. Scalise was rated "B Okay."

Assistance to Ukraine is a priority for Democratic President Joe Biden. Advocates for the aid argue that the world must defend Ukraine's democracy to deter aggression by other autocratic governments.

Opponents argue that taxpayer dollars would be better spent within the United States, or accuse Kyiv of corruptly failing to keep track of the money, which U.S. and Ukrainian officials deny.

Biden asked Congress on Friday to approve a new funding package that includes $61.4 billion for Ukraine, with much of that money going to replenish U.S. military stockpiles.

The request, which also includes aid for Israel, Taiwan and border security, has had a mixed response from Republicans.

Emmer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the supplemental or his current view of Ukraine assistance.

The House cannot vote on Biden's request until a speaker is in place.

Republicans have a narrow 221-212 House majority, and many have voted for Ukraine aid, but the next speaker could quash more assistance before a proposal reaches the House floor if he opposed the idea.

McCarthy was ousted just three days after he led the House to pass a spending bill that included no new money for Ukraine, highlighting the reluctance of some of his caucus to back Ukraine funds.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell)