Lawmakers reelected Paul Ryan as House speaker Tuesday, choosing the Wisconsin Republican with a fraught history with President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Trump's chief legislative partner.
Ryan won the support of all but one Republican, winning with many fewer GOP defectors than when he first won the speakership in 2015. The vast majority of Democrats voted for Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was reelected as party leader last year despite an abortive effort among some colleagues to oust her after November's disappointing election results.
The near-unanimous vote for Ryan stands as a strong show of GOP unity as the party embarks on an ambitious legislative agenda that, for the first time in eight years, has a real chance to be signed into law.
But the 24 hours preceding the vote showed that unity can be fleeting: His reelection came less than two hours after Republicans held an emergency meeting to reverse proposed changes that would roll back the authority of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Ryan opposed those changes ahead of a Monday night conference meeting, but lawmakers voted for them anyway - then agreed to reverse course Tuesday after a public firestorm.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the only Republican not to cast his ballot for Ryan. Massie invoked a Trump campaign mantra as he voted for Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., saying Webster would "drain the swamp."
Republicans currently enjoy a 241-to-194 advantage over Democrats in the House, though that margin stands to narrow slightly in the coming weeks as the Senate takes up nominations of several House members to the Trump administration. Should those members be confirmed, their seats would be filled through special elections to be held later this year.
Trump has picked Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., to serve as White House budget director, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., to serve as CIA director, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to serve as Health and Human Services secretary, and Rep. Ryan Zinke to serve as Interior secretary. One Democrat, Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, is expected to depart the House soon to become attorney general of California.
Many Democrats prefaced their votes with a short script before casting their votes for Pelosi: "Because the people's house should be ethical, accountable and open to free debate," several of them said. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, for one, delivered his vote from the well of the House.
One Republican had a sharp retort: "Because the people's house should be in order, Paul Ryan," said Rep. Mike Bost , R-Ill.
Three Democrats opposed Pelosi: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., voted for Lewis; Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., voted for Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio; and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., voted for Cooper.