House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has been reelected to his post by his colleagues to lead a larger GOP conference in the new session of Congress next year.
Other top House leaders were also reelected to their current posts, including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as chair of the House Republican Conference.
The elections marked the first major gathering for the conference since the GOP surprised pundits and gained several new seats in the November elections.
Democrats had been projected to pick up five to 10 seats or more in this year's elections, but with several races still outstanding, Republicans have gained at least eight so far, stunning lawmakers and analysts alike.
Republicans "delivered a historical, political upset fueled by conservative women, minorities and veterans," McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. "Everyone predicted Republicans would lose 15 to 20 seats; not one incumbent lost."
House Republicans have elected Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) as our Republican Leader for the 117th Congress!— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) November 17, 2020
The conference is celebrating its new members, which includes a record number of new Republican women. The moves will force Democrats to work with tighter margins as they retain control of the chamber. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to be reelected to another term by the Democratic caucus on Wednesday.
The GOP elections were held in person Tuesday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Democrats are holding their leadership elections remotely over two days this week.
Cheney said the conference is focused on expanding on its gains in future years.
"The feeling in the room, and the enthusiasm and the excitement about where we are and about the hard work ahead of us, with the momentum and energy to get that work done has been really remarkable," Cheney said. "We have a tremendous class of incoming members."
McCarthy conceded that Republicans will remain in the minority, but with more influence over floor action.
"We may not be able to schedule the floor, but we are going to run the floor," he said.
Scalise said it's been a "battle" fighting for legislative efforts in the minority, but many issues remain to be addressed in the new Congress. In the coming months, Scalise said it's key to get another coronavirus relief package moving; however, that's been stalled as both parties struggle to reach a deal.
"We're not going to stop fighting," Scalise said. "We're going to continue battling."
House Democrats blame Senate Republicans for inaction on additional aid, pointing out that they passed multiple packages in recent months that have not moved in the upper chamber.
McCarthy on Tuesday also highlighted President Trump's role in House races, saying he has helped GOP candidates.
"I think the president — regardless of whether he's president again or he's citizen Trump — I think he will continue to play a part in this nation," McCarthy said. "I look at the number of members who got elected; they got elected under President Trump. ... And we expanded the party."
McCarthy and other congressional Republicans have supported Trump's false claims that he could overturn the election results showing President-elect Joe Biden's win. Trump hasn't conceded to Biden.
Still, McCarthy bets Trump's influence will help grow the GOP in the future.
"So how's the party going to look different? It's going to look broader. It's going to reach more people than it reached before," McCarthy said.
On Tuesday, House Republicans also reelected Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota for another term as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. And Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama will also remain in his role as the party's policy chair.
Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana won election as vice chair for the House conference, and Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina will be its secretary.