Updated 7:59 p.m. The box of tissues on the lectern in the Ways and Means Committee room proved useful Wednesday, as an emotional John Boehner won unanimous support to become the next Speaker and a standing ovation from the House Republican Conference.
The Ohio lawmaker, who celebrated his 61st birthday Wednesday, must receive a majority vote on the House floor in January before he can truly lay claim to the gavel, but that vote is largely ceremonial.
Boehner gave a tearful speech after the voice vote. “We won’t make the same mistakes that they made,” he told Members gathered inside the hearing room, referring to Democrats.
“I’m honored and humbled by your confidence in me to lead the House as we begin this journey. From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” he said according to sources in the room. “Let’s get to work.”
Aides then wheeled in a birthday cake, frosted in Boehner’s trademark kelly green.
The Republican leadership elections were largely uneventful, and each Member of the leadership team was elected by voice vote. Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.) and Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) won their uncontested bids for Majority Leader and Majority Whip, respectively.
Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) were re-elected to their posts.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) also won his uncontested bid to serve a second term at the helm of the House campaign arm. Prior to the midterms, Sessions had mulled a bid for Majority Whip, but he decided shortly after the Nov. 2 elections to run for re-election to his current post.
Members had expected a competitive race between Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (Fla.) to become the next Policy Committee chairman, but Mack unexpectedly dropped his bid. Unbeknownst to many Members and staff, Mack had conceded and endorsed Price in a letter to colleagues Tuesday night.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) had challenged Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) for the Conference chairman post after Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) announced he would not seek a second term as chairman, but she dropped out of the race last week and endorsed The Texas Republican. Hensarling cruised to victory Wednesday.
Reps.-elect Kristi Noem (S.D.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) were chosen by the incoming freshmen to fill two leadership positions created to represent their class.
Republicans also voted Wednesday to expand the Steering Committee by six seats: Speaker, chairman of the Budget Committee, three for incoming freshmen and an extra regional seat.
As the highest-ranking Republican in the minority, Boehner held five votes on the steering panel, but he relinquished one of those votes on Wednesday to allow the Chairman of Leadership to have one vote on the panel. The Chairman of Leadership, which is currently held by Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), is appointed by Boehner.