GOP Picks Boehner As House Leader

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) holds a press conference at the Capitol July 12, 2006 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
Republicans Friday chose Rep. John Boehner as minority leader, succeeding Speaker Dennis Hastert in the top GOP leadership post for the Democratic-controlled House that convenes in January.

Boehner defeated Indiana conservative Mike Pence. The vote tally was not immediately announced. Boehner's election cements the Ohio conservative's resurrection within GOP leadership ranks. His elevation to succeed Hastert, D-Ill., as the party's front line leader came despite unrest within the rank and file and a spirited campaign by Pence.

Shortly afterward, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., won a 137-57 vote to keep his post as whip, which will be the No. 2 GOP job when Republicans become the minority party in January. Blunt is currently the No. 3 House Republican; he defeated Arizona conservative Rep. John Shadegg despite sentiment for fresh leadership faces.

Boehner succeeded Tom DeLay, R-Texas, as majority leader in February and was easily elevated to replace Hastert, who is leaving the leadership ranks in the wake the Democrats' victory.

Boehner initially rode Rep. Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" campaign to power when the Republicans won control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections. But he was purged along with Gingrich, R-Ga., in the wake of the party's disappointing performance in the 1998 elections.

"We need to start by rebuilding the Republican brand," Boehner said. "Republicans need to get back to our core principles and rededicate ourselves to the reform mind-set that put us in the majority 12 years ago."

Democrats, for their part, are focusing on healing the wounds from a rancorous battle for their No. 2 leadership post, a struggle in which Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., defeated a rival backed by Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The battle between Hoyer and John Murtha, D-Pa., appeared to overshadow Pelosi's unanimous selection by Democrats to become the first female speaker when Democrats take control of the House in January. Pelosi had aggressively backed top ally Murtha over Hoyer, with whom she has long had a testy relationship.

Murtha became his party's hero last year for being among the first hawks
to turn around on the war in Iraq, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, but he was saddled with a reputation of pork master and being an unindicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal.

"What has stunned even her supporters is why she would want to wade into this battle where she didn't need to take sides," said CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. "It has raised questions about both her leadership and her judgment."

But each of the combatants said they would bury the hatchet and promised a unified Democratic leadership once the party assumes the majority for the first time in a dozen years.

Hoyer received a congratulatory call late Thursday from President Bush, who was traveling in Asia, Bush press secretary Tony Snow told reporters on Air Force One.

On the Republican side, there were a host of other races Friday for lesser leadership posts. Most prominently, Adam Putnam of Florida appeared poised to assume the No. 3 position of conference chair.

Hoyer, 67, a 25-year veteran of Congress, defeated Murtha by a vote of 149-86.

"Let the healing begin," Pelosi said after Hoyer's victory.

Earlier, after fellow Democrats selected her to become speaker in January, Pelosi told her colleagues: "We made history and now we will make progress for the American people."

She pledged that, after 12 years in the minority, "we will not be dazzled by money and special interests."