Boehner, Blunt Remain Atop House GOP

One day after the Democrats in the House named the people who would lead their majority in the 110th Congress, the Republicans followed suit. The GOP is keeping its House team intact, with John Boehner as minority leader and Roy Blunt for whip.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Turning to politics, House Republicans lost their majority for the first time in 12 years in last week's elections, but today they turned down a chance to shake up their leadership ranks.

NPR's Julie Rovner has the story.

JULIE ROVNER: While House Speaker Dennis Hastert is stepping down from his leadership job, the numbers two and three House Republicans easily turned back challenges from the activist conservative wing of the party. Ohio's John Boehner defeated Mike Pence of Indiana for the job of minority leader, while Roy Blunt of Missouri will continue in the vote counting job of whip, defeating Arizona's John Shadegg.

Blunt told reporters the faces may be the same, but that the leaders have already learned some important lessons from last week's losses.

Representative ROY BLUNT (Republican, Missouri): No question that a week ago, 10 days ago, we were disappointed, as a conference, as individuals, as members of Congress. There's also question in the last 10 days, our conference has come together with an appreciation for the opportunity to redefine who we are, to provide the kind of alternatives that we want to provide, to look forward the future - frankly, to get rid of the bad habits that we may have developed in 12 years in the majority.

ROVNER: Further down the leadership ranks are some new faces, including Oklahoma's Tom Cole. He'll take over as head of the House Republican Campaign Committee in charge of trying to win back the majority. But Republicans realized that will take a new strategy, said Mike Burgess of Texas, during a break in today's voting.

Representative MIKE BURGESS (Republican, Texas): We're out of the legislating business January 4th. So we don't have the votes to win on the floor. We have to win the argument, we had to be prepared every day to win the argument on the floor, and win the argument in the press, win the argument in the committee, be prepared to lose the vote and then take our case to the American people in two years, and I think we'll be in good shape before we do that.

ROVNER: Of course, that will only work if the leadership can forge a unified message - no sure bet. But at least Republicans start next year publicly more united than house Democrats. Their rise to the majority was marred by a nasty race for majority leader. It was won by the candidate who was not supported by incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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