WASHINGTON—Despite nine defections from fellow Republicans, Ohio Rep. John Boehner was re-elected as speaker of the House Thursday in a voice vote.
Boehner won the backing of 220 Republicans, who retained a majority in the chamber after November's election. But a handful of GOP members voted no or abstained. Most Democrats voted for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Boehner's grasp on his speakership seemed tenuous going into the vote.
The Ohio congressman has come under fire from conservatives in recent weeks for supporting a "fiscal cliff" deal with President Barack Obama that allowed tax rates to increase. He allowed a vote on a package brokered by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden that most House Republicans opposed. The bill passed Tuesday with the support of Democrats.
Several northeastern Republicans loudly criticized Boehner for stalling a $60 billion relief bill for states hit by Superstorm Sandy. Boehner has pledged to hold a vote on Sandy relief on Friday.
Before the speakership vote, rumors swirled that enough conservative Republicans would vote against Boehner to force a second ballot—some reporters took friendly bets on Boehner's future—but they were unable to muster enough opposition to bring him down. Inside the House chamber Thursday, the defectors sat together in a clump near the center of the aisle during the vote and shouted several different nominees when their names were called.
Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash, still furious after Boehner revoked his committee assignment last year, voted for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador instead.
Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce and the newly elected Florida Rep. Ted Yoho voted for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. (Cantor supported Boehner.)
Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert nominated former Rep. Allen West of Florida, prompting Democrats to respond with laughter on the other side of the aisle.
North Carolina Rep. Walker Jones voted for former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie voted for Amash, and Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp supported Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Republicans Labrador, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon and South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney did not vote, and Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas voted present.
Once the votes were cast and Boehner was announced the winner, Republican and Democratic leaders joined the Ohio delegation in escorting Boehner to the speaker's chair, where he will serve for two more years.
In his first speech to the 113th Congress, Boehner urged members to remain true to the Constitution and focused his remarks on the national debt.
"Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. These are not separate problems," Boehner told the members in the chamber. "At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state. "The American Dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt. Break its hold, and we begin to set our economy free."