By Molly K. Hooper - 11/18/10 01:02 AM EST
A teary John Boehner on Wednesday said he was humbled after House Republicans unanimously named him their leader for the new Congress.
Boehner (R-Ohio) was elected Speaker-designate by House Republicans two weeks after leading his party to a stunning midterm victory that shifted control of the lower chamber to the GOP, along with 61 seats. Several races remain outstanding.
According to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), whom Boehner asked to handle the GOP’s transition to power in the House, the Ohio Republican teared up during a “short, heartfelt speech” in which he thanked the conference for its support.
“I’m honored and humbled by your confidence in me to lead the House as we begin this journey,” Boehner told Republicans after the vote. “From the bottom of my heart — thank you. Let’s get to work.”
Before cutting into a birthday cake for Boehner, Republicans sang their future Speaker’s signature “Happy Birthday” song, which Boehner has been known to sing on the House floor to himself: “This is your birthday song. It doesn’t last too long.”
The cake had forest-green icing to match the posters Boehner used in his first campaign. White icing atop that background read: “Happy Birthday Mr. Speaker.”
Presumptive incoming Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) gave Boehner’s nominating speech, with Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Rep.-elect Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) seconding the motion.
Republicans also unanimously elected the rest of their leadership team, including incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who will become the first Jewish person to hold that title in the House.
None of the results were a surprise, but the emotional day capped a remarkable turnaround for Boehner that was years in the making.
First elected to the House in 1990, Boehner became the GOP’s conference chairman in 1995, only to be ousted from the position four years later. He made a startling comeback in 2006 when he won a tough race to become majority leader of the House following Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) resignation.
There was another setback that fall, when Republicans lost control of the House after 12 years in power. Two years later, the GOP suffered additional House losses, and it appeared it might be in the wilderness of the minority for some time.
Instead, the tides shifted again in 2010 as Boehner and other members of his leadership team adopted a strategy of opposing the Obama White House and large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
In a statement, Boehner promised that the new leadership team would work on the priorities of creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming Congress.
“Our new leadership team reflects a new majority ready to be humbler, wiser and more focused than its predecessors on the priorities of the people,” he said. “It will have these traits not because of me, but because of the people it serves.”
Rep.-elect Tim Scott (S.C.), one of two incoming black Republicans, gave Cantor’s nominating speech. The nomination was seconded by Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.)
In praising Cantor, Scott said the Virginian and his fellow “Young Gun” lawmakers Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were “responsible for the freshmen being here.”
Shortly after electing Cantor, the conference unanimously voted for McCarthy to be the majority whip.
None of the candidates ran against any opposition after Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) dropped his bid against Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for policy chairman.
Outgoing GOP conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) made a motion to allow all incoming members, including those currently locked in contested races, to vote for the new slate of GOP leaders. As a result, 244 Republicans cast votes for the leadership team.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) was named Republican Conference Chairman, while Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was elected conference vice chairwoman. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) was elected conference secretary and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was elected to another term as National Republican Congressional Committee chairman. Price was elected policy committee chairman.
After the general leadership positions were filled, members of the freshman class were left to vote for two liaisons to serve at the leadership table, as well as two steering committee members, a freshman class president and a representative to the policy committee.
The entire conference will reconvene on Thursday morning with its newly elected leaders in place and vote on continuing the earmark moratorium put in place earlier this year.