Democrats have chosen Representative Nancy Pelosi to be the first female speaker of the House, in the wake of their victory in the US mid-terms.
Ms Pelosi will formally be elected in January
Former House minority leader Ms Pelosi will succeed Republican speaker Dennis Hastert, who leaves the job in January.
The speaker is second in the line of succession to the presidency, behind the US vice-president.
Democrats chose Maryland's Steny Hoyer as House Majority leader, snubbing Ms Pelosi's choice, John Murtha.
Mr Hoyer was chosen by a secret ballot tally of 149 against 86 for Mr Murtha, in what was reported as the first sign of divisions in the newly-elected majority Democrats.
Mr Murtha, 74, a former soldier, last year stoked controversy by calling for a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
The full House will formally elect a speaker when it convenes in January under the control of the Democrats for the first time in 12 years. Ms Pelosi is certain to win.
The position brings with it the power to appoint politicians to chair key bodies such as the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
Widely respected for her organisational and fund-raising skills, Ms Pelosi has a low public profile compared with the Democrats' other female big-hitter, Hillary Clinton.
Ms Pelosi represents a liberal San Francisco district and analysts say her personal voting record puts her to the left of many in her party.