WASHINGTON – House Republicans picked John Boehner Friday to serve as minority leader when Democrats take control of Congress in January for the first time in 12 years.
"We're going to work as a team and we are going to earn our way back into our majority," Boehner of Ohio said at a press conference after winning the leadership post on his birthday. "We need to fight for a smaller, less-costly, and more accountable federal government."
Boehner defeated Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana in a closed-door election among colleagues. The vote tally was 168-27 with one vote for Texas Rep. Joe Barton.
Boehner will succeed Speaker Dennis Hastert in the top GOP leadership post for the House. Boehner ascended to the No. 2 position after former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, stepped down as majority leader in February.
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., won minority whip for the No. 2 GOP post when Republicans become the minority party in January. Blunt is currently the No. 3 House Republican, and he was favored to defeat Arizona conservative Rep. John Shadegg despite sentiment for fresh leadership faces. The vote tally was 137-57.
Republican leaders now have the chance to redefine and to get rid of bad habits developed during 12 years in the majority, Blunt said.
Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida won election to the No. 3 position of conference chair.
The Republican elections came one day after Democrats chose Rep. Nancy Pelosi as their nominee to be the first woman House speaker. Pelosi, the current minority leader, will take the reins when the 110th Congress convenes in January.
Pelosi on Thursday suffered her first setback when Democrat colleagues chose Rep. Steny Hoyer for the No. 2 leadership post of majority leader, instead of Rep. John Murtha, whom Pelosi wanted for the position.
The battle between Hoyer and Murtha, D-Pa., appeared to overshadow Pelosi's unanimous selection by Democrats to become the first female speaker when Democrats take control of the House in January. Pelosi had aggressively backed top ally Murtha over Hoyer, with whom she has long had a testy relationship.
But Pelosi and Hoyer said they would bury the hatchet and promised a unified Democratic leadership once the party assumes the majority for the first time in a dozen years.
Hoyer, 67, a 25-year veteran of Congress, defeated Murtha by a vote of 149-86.
"Let the healing begin," Pelosi said after Hoyer's victory.
Hoyer received a congratulatory call late Thursday from President Bush, who was traveling in Asia, Bush press secretary Tony Snow told reporters on Air Force One.
Boehner was elected to Congress in 1990 and was a protege of former Speaker Newt Gingrich when the Georgia Republican was storming the gates of the Democratic-held House.
Boehner was part of Gingrich's leadership team during the first four years of GOP House control but was purged along with Gingrich in the wake of the party's disappointing performance in the 1998 elections.
During the press conference Friday, Boehner was prompted to sing a birthday song after a reporter requested it. "This is your birthday song, it doesn't last too long, hey," Boehner and other Republican leaders sang in unison.
FOX News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.