As the new U.S. Congress convened on Thursday, the House of Representatives began voting for a speaker, with Republican John Boehner favored to win re-election despite a troubled few weeks during the "fiscal cliff" debate.
No Republican had stepped forward to oppose Boehner and with his party controlling the chamber, 233 to 200 with two vacancies, he looked set to retain his post.
But, presuming that all House members turn up for the session, the vote would go to a second round if 17 Republicans or more do not back Boehner.
That would be an embarrassment for the congressman from Ohio although he would still likely win eventually.
Some Republicans have criticized Boehner for dragging his feet on aid for storm Sandy victims in the Northeast and backing tax hikes on the wealthy sought by President Barack Obama to avert the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax increases and spending cuts.
Minority Democrats offered token opposition at the speakership vote, nominating their leader, Nancy Pelosi, as speaker.