When Paul Ryan exists Congress in January, Rep. Kevin McCarthy will replace him. Not as Speaker, but as the House minority leader.

The California Republican was elected during a closed-door meeting of Republicans today.

The vote was 159-43.

McCarthy had faced a long-shot challenge from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

With Ryan headed for the exits, McCarthy, the current No. 2 House Republican, had long been viewed as the heavy favorite to become minority leader in the new Congress, the highest-ranking GOP leadership post with Republicans in the minority after losing control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current No. 3 House Republican, was elected to the No. 2 Republican leadership position in the new Congress, where he will serve as minority whip.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was elected to the third-ranking position in the GOP hierarchy and will be the next Republican conference chair.

At a news conference Wednesday, McCarthy vowed to help the GOP win back the majority in the House and said Republicans will oppose Democrats if they target President Trump.

“We will work with anybody across that aisle if they are there to work to move America forward. But let me be very clear, if their agenda is simply investigations, impeachment, and not focused on the hardworking American public, we will be there to defend the American public,” McCarthy said.

Dragged down by history and Trump’s dismal poll numbers, Democrats enjoyed their biggest House victory since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.

Democrats are on track to gain 35 to 40 seats, including a slew in McCarthy’s home state of California, where an already small number of Republican House members saw their ranks shrink dramatically.

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