Kevin McCarthy elected House minority leader and Steve Scalise will be minority whip

Democrats debate working with Trump

House Republicans voted on Wednesday to make current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy the minority leader by a wide margin, 159 to 43, in their leadership elections for the 116th Congress. McCarthy was challenged by Rep. Jim Jordan, a staunch conservative and prominent member of the Freedom Caucus. Rep. Steve Scalise won a unanimous vote to become minority whip.

Current House Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring after this term, which left the minority leader post up for grabs. McCarthy was widely believed to be the favorite, but Jordan had some allies on the far right in the House. A few dozen members comprise the Freedom Caucus, which was instrumental in the ousting of former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015. McCarthy briefly ran to replace Boehner, but soon withdrew his candidacy, in part due to opposition from more conservative members of the Republican conference.

McCarthy has taken a harder line on issues such as immigration in recent weeks. He proposed a bill last month to provide full funding to build the border wall between the United States and Mexico, a campaign promise and passion project for President Trump.

Scalise was considering running for House speaker if Republicans kept their majority, but opted to stay in his current post as whip.

McCarthy and Scalise will remain in their current positions as majority leader and majority whip, respectively, until the new Congress is seated in January. Democrats hold their vote on leadership positions later this month.

Several other positions were decided by unanimous voice vote: Rep. Liz Cheney was elected GOP conference chair, Rep. Mark Walker was elected GOP conference vice chair, Rep. Tom Emmer was election chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee, and Rep. Jason Smith was elected GOP conference secretary. Rep. Gary Palmer defeated Rep. David Schweikert to become Republican Policy Committee chair.

All of the newly elected members of Republican House leadership are white, and only one, Cheney, is female.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.