Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio will continue as speaker of the House of Representatives. (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON – Republicans chose Rep. John A. Boehner for another term as House Speaker on Wednesday as lawmakers of both parties all but ensured the new Congress will have very similar leadership to this one, the most polarized and unpopular in history.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is expected to remain as the Democratic minority leader, and senators returned Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as the Democratic majority leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the Republican minority leader.
The lineup at the top ranks provides little indication of altering the partisan dynamic that left this Congress largely gridlocked.
Boehner reiterated that the House GOP majority is the “primary line of defense” against the Democratic administration in the White House. The formal vote on the speaker’s position will be taken by the full House after the new Congress convenes in January, but Wednesday’s vote decides the outcome.
Not that election of the leaders was without drama.
Boehner, of Ohio, encountered a last-minute symbolic challenge from the past: Newt Gingrich was nominated to retake the speaker’s job by a fellow Republican, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. (Under the Constitution, the speaker does not have to be a current member of the House, though that has never happened.) No one seconded the nomination, according to those familiar with the closed-door session, and Boehner won his party’s nomination.
And on the Senate side of the Capitol, Republican senators requested a secret ballot for their election process, sticking to the rules rather than simply allowing a voice vote, as has sometimes been done.
In a nod to the rising stature of newer Republican senators, McConnell was nominated for another term as GOP leader by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both elected on the 2010 tea party wave.
“Mitch unifies all of us,” Rubio told his colleagues during the private session, according to the Florida senator’s office. “He's the smartest political mind around.”
Pelosi’s decision to remain for another turn at the top was perhaps the most intriguing of the leadership questions. It was a move she kept a close secret until she announced her decision at the Democrats’ own closed-door morning meeting. Democrats in the House will conduct leadership votes later this month.
Further down the leadership ladder, House Republicans retained Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia as the majority leader, and in a newfound display of teamwork, Boehner and Cantor nominated each other for their jobs.
Democrats are on track to keep Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland in the No. 2 spot and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina as the No. 3 Democrat, though down-ballot races are contested. Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois will remain the assistant leader and party whip.
The top woman in House Republican leadership, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, won the No. 4 position over conservative Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.
And despite disappointing election night returns for Republicans in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the head of his party’s campaign efforts, will become the GOP whip, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican.