Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected House minority leader Wednesday in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, putting the California Republican in position to lead House GOP members after Speaker Paul Ryan leaves Capitol Hill at the end of his term in January.
The vote was 159-43. McCarthy had faced a long-shot challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
With Ryan headed for the exits, McCarthy, the current No. 2 House Republican, had long been viewed as the heavy favorite to become minority leader in the new Congress, the highest-ranking GOP leadership post with Republicans in the minority after losing control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
Ryan announced in April that he would not seek re-election and had endorsed McCarthy, the House majority leader for the past four years, to be his successor.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current No. 3 House Republican, was elected to the No. 2 Republican leadership position in the new Congress, where he will serve as minority whip. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was elected to the third-ranking position in the GOP hierarchy and will be the next Republican conference chair.
At a news conference Wednesday, McCarthy vowed to help the GOP win back the majority in the House and said Republicans will oppose Democrats if they target President Donald Trump.
“We will work with anybody across that aisle if they are there to work to move America forward. But let me be very clear, if their agenda is simply investigations, impeachment, and not focused on the hardworking American public, we will be there to defend the American public,” McCarthy said.