House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has retained her post as the chamber's top Democrat, following a challenge from Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan.
After winning the internal party vote 134-63, the 76-year-old California Democrat said on Twitter later Wednesday, "Honored to be elected by my colleagues to serve as Democratic Leader. Let's get to work."
But she was forced to promise changes to the caucus to answer complaints from lawmakers fed up with being shut out of the upper ranks of leadership, especially in the wake of a devastating election that installed a Republican monopoly over Congress and the White House.
First female Speaker
Pelosi, who made history in 2007 by becoming the first female speaker of the House, has been in Congress for 30 years, and has led the party in the House for 14 years.
Ryan, 43, drew support from discouraged party members and cast himself as part of the new generation of leaders for the party.
He said there is a divide between urban and rural Democrats.
“If we’re going to win as Democrats, we need to have an economic message that resonates in every corner of this country,” Ryan said after the vote.
While "disappointed" with the vote, he said he was happy that he had received 63 votes.
"Getting 63 votes when your main pitch was we need to talk about economics, we need to talk about the things that unite us," he said. "We’re not getting rid of our progressive values -- we talk about them, too. But the emphasis needs to be on the issue that unites everybody and that issue is economics.
"Its’ jobs, it’s wages, it’s pensions, it’s benefits. It’s talking about the minimum wage, it’s talking about middle-class incomes that haven’t gone up in 30 years and we got off that message," Ryan added. "So getting 63 votes signifies to me that the caucus is interested in hearing that message."
Pelosi also seemed to suggest the party had learned a lesson, saying after the vote, "Never again will we have an election where there's any doubt in anyone's minds where the Democrats are when it comes to America's working families."
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge agreed. “We did not lose today - today we won. ... We have a leadership that is now listens to what we are saying. We have a leadership that now wants to be more inclusive.”
Republicans are on track to hold 241 of the 435 seats in the House next year.
Democrats, who had high hopes of significant gains in the election, picked up just six seats on Election Day earlier this month and remain in the minority with 194 seats.
The Democratic Party has lost nearly 60 House seats to Republicans since President Barack Obama took office eight years ago.
Katherine Gypson on Capitol Hill contributed to this article. Some information for this report was provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.