House GOP elects leadership team

Greg Nash

Buoyed by a GOP wave election, Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner on Thursday cruised to another two years as Speaker of the House.

After Republicans captured their biggest House majority since the 1920s, not one of his conservative critics launched a last-minute bid to challenge Boehner for the top job.

The voice vote electing Boehner to a third term as Speaker came after he spent months on the road stumping and raising cash for GOP candidates across the country, from California and Iowa to New York and Maine.

{mosads}Boehner’s inner circle was mostly unchanged after Thursday’s leadership elections. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) was reelected to his post by voice vote. He first won the No. 2 leadership spot over the summer after the shocking GOP primary defeat of then-Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) also were reelected by voice vote. So were Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins (Kansas) and Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx (N.C.).

None of them faced opposition.

“We kept the band together,” McCarthy told The Hill as he left the closed-door meeting in the Cannon House building.

The only new addition will be Rep. Luke Messer (Ind.), who was elected as Republican Policy Committee chairman over Reps. Tom Reed (N.Y.) and Rob Woodall (Ga.). That’s the No. 5 spot on Boehner’s leadership team.

Woodall was eliminated on the first ballot, sources tracking the race said. Messer, the 2013 freshman class president, beat Reed on the second ballot 137 to 90 votes, according to a tally shared with The Hill.

“As a conference we need to have a positive agenda so we’re defined by our ideas and not just what the media says we oppose,” Messer told reporters after his victory. He said he was pleased the House lined up a vote Friday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“That’s a great example of the kinds of ideas we need to work on here over the next weeks and months,” Messer said.

The only dissent of the afternoon came during the vote for Speaker. Only one or two people expressed opposition during the voice vote, said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). 

Rep.-elect Jody Hice (R-Ga.) confirmed in an interview that he was one of the members who voted no. A conservative talk-radio host, Hice had pledged during the campaign to vote against Boehner.

“Throughout the district, I heard over and over and over they wanted new leadership,” Hice said of his constituents.

But the incoming freshman wouldn’t commit to whether he’d vote against Boehner for Speaker again on the floor after the new Congress is sworn in early next year. Neither would Tea-Party Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), whom the GOP establishment tried to oust in his Republican primary earlier this year.

“We’ll see how things go over the next couple months. I’m hopeful that things are headed in the right direction,” Amash said in an interview.

“We’ll get to see how our leadership team handles the next couple months,” he added, “and I think everyone deserves an opportunity at the beginning of a new cycle and hopefully we can all get on the same page and do some good work.”

Boehner won’t officially win the gavel for the 114th Congress until January 2015, when Republicans participate in a public vote on the House floor to reelect the Speaker.

In January 2013, a dozen Tea-Party insurgents fell short of trying to oust Boehner in the public floor vote by forcing a second ballot. But next year, he should be in the clear.

Boehner’s expanded majority includes more moderate Republicans from blue states, and  several of those same 2013 detractors said they have no desire to repeat their failed coup attempt.

House Democrats will elect their leaders next week, though the lineup is also expected to remain largely unchanged.

Republicans’ dominance on Election Day — and the caucus’ vote to give Boehner’s leadership team two more years in office — signaled a rejection of President Obama’s policies and an embrace of GOP ideas, Scalise said.

“People liked the ideas they saw us passing out the House, and now we have an opportunity for those bills to make it through the Senate and to the president’s desk,” Scalise told The Hill as he descended two flights of stairs upon leaving the ornate Cannon Caucus Room.

“And so we have a stronger team with a larger group of members to get us there.”

Updated at 5:40 p.m. 

Cristina Marcos contributed to this story.

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