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Originally published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 6:51 PM

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McMorris Rodgers wins fight for spot in House GOP leadership

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, defeated a candidate backed by her party's vice-presidential nominee for a spot in the House Republican leadership; and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, said she again would seek the top position among House Democrats.

McClatchy Newspapers

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WASHINGTON — Congress partisans elected new leaders Wednesday, with Senate Democrats and Republicans choosing essentially the same people and House of Representatives Republicans battling over the job of conference chair, which went to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, beating out a candidate backed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was the party's vice-presidential candidate.

The contest represented essentially a new, younger, more diverse vision of the party with McMorris Rodgers, who was backed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a more traditional, conservative view with Georgia Rep. Tom Price.

Ryan's decision to publicly take sides did not sit well with Boehner forces because the speaker has been trying to gain better control of a conference that contains many tea-party conservatives. Ryan, the chairman of the Budget Committee, will play a major role in the "fiscal-cliff" negotiations. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. ran unopposed to retain his post as majority leader. Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., was re-elected majority whip.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was elected minority whip, the second most powerful GOP slot, despite a poor showing as the party's campaign chief. And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, announced she would run for leader again after some postelection drama suggesting she might step down. House Democrats will vote Nov. 29.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was re-elected without opposition to a larger caucus that gained two seats in the coming term. In a photo opportunity, he reveled in the new Democratic members, who, along with two independents, give the Democrats a more solid 55-45 majority in the new Congress.

"The American people have spoken," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who kept his position. "Divided government has frequently done big things for this country," McConnell said.

The party's new Senate campaign chief is Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, who tapped Senator-elect Ted Cruz of Texas to be vice chairman for grass-roots organizing and moderate Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as vice chairman for fundraising.

Two more women and an African-American lawmaker also were elected to new posts, giving the Republican conference a more diverse look.

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina fought a close race to be conference secretary, a steppingstone in leadership, and Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas was elected conference vice chairwoman. Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who's black, is the sophomore class's liaison to leadership.

Pelosi's decision to serve another term in her post will probably have a big influence on efforts by President Obama and Congress to reach an agreement to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

Pelosi has been one of the biggest defenders of programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Surprising virtually no one, Sen.-elect Angus King, I-Maine, said Wednesday that he plans to caucus with Senate Democrats, because "affiliating with the majority makes the most sense."

King won a decisive election last week to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and throughout his yearlong campaign refused to say with which party he would caucus once he arrived in Washington.

Despite his decision, King didn't rule out joining with Republicans in two years if they retake the majority and said he had several constructive conversations with GOP senators.

"By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other," King told reporters.

Includes material from The Associated Press and The Washington Post

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