WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid signs of support from Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan moved Tuesday toward winning approval from House Republicans to keep his job in the coming Congress. House Democrats, jarred by their meager Election Day gains, seemed less certain about their direction and delayed a vote on whether to keep Rep. Nancy Pelosi as minority leader.
At a private meeting of House GOP lawmakers, Ryan, R-Wis., told them that in a morning conversation with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Pence said he and Trump "are very supportive of the leadership team and are looking forward to working with them," according to Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.
Lummis, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and who's retiring in January, called Ryan's remarks "a validating moment."
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., another member of the Freedom Caucus, said "Donald Trump controls whether Paul Ryan is the next speaker or not" and said "all the signals we have" are that the president-elect wants Ryan in the job.
Trump's view on whether Ryan should keep his job was potentially decisive because his shockingly successful White House campaign stirred passionate support from many House Republicans' constituents and helped many of them keep their seats.
Whether Trump would back or seek to oust Ryan was initially unclear after a campaign in which Ryan refused to work for his own party's presidential candidate and frequently lambasted his comments about Hispanics and others. Trump returned the fire with caustic tweets about Ryan.
But since Trump's Election Day victory, the president-elect visited Ryan at the Capitol and the two men have spoken frequently.
In addition, Ryan will have two powerful allies and old friends at the highest levels of the White House: Pence is a former House colleague and Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, who will be chief of staff, is from Ryan's home state of Wisconsin.
"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government," Ryan told reporters Tuesday.
Ryan still faces possible opposition from members of the Freedom Caucus who think he may not push a starkly conservative agenda aggressively enough. He's also been slammed by long-time Trump supporters upset that he refused to work for the president-elect during the campaign, and clashed frequently with him.
The tea party-oriented Freedom Caucus has been a thorn in GOP leaders' sides for years and played a major role in forcing the previous speaker, John Boehner, R-Ohio, to leave Congress last year.
But in a sign of healing, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of Trump's earliest congressional supporters, said he would second Ryan's nomination to be speaker later Tuesday "as a sign of, if you will, Trump support for Mr. Ryan."
On the Democratic side, House Democrats postponed leadership elections that had been scheduled for Thursday until Nov. 30 amid signs of dissatisfaction with their veteran leaders. Pelosi, D-Calif., and No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland have led House Democrats for over a decade and are both in their seventies.
After what was a disastrous Election Day for Democrats, the party was on track to gain just six House seats at a time when they were hoping for more.
More than two dozen House Democrats wrote Pelosi this week asking her to delay the elections. They wrote that it is "vital that our caucus take the time to listen to the American people and learn the lessons of this difficult election."
House Democrats made the decision to postpone their elections at a closed-door meeting Tuesday.
Next year will be the first that the GOP will have unfettered White House and congressional control since 2006. Republicans plan a 2017 agenda headlined by repealing and rewriting Obama's health care law, cutting taxes and curbing federal regulations.
In a letter to administration officials, House GOP leaders warned them not to approve rules curbing oil and gas pollution during the waning days of Barack Obama's presidency and said Congress would overturn them if they did.
Some opposition to Ryan remained.
Another Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Monday that he expected Ryan to win the majority of Republicans needed Tuesday to be nominated. But he said "the rub comes" Jan. 3, when Ryan will need 218 votes — a majority of the full House — to be speaker and avoid a damaging setback to a career path that many think includes a presidential run.
With four races undecided, Republicans will likely have 241 seats next year. Democrats are certain to back their own leader, meaning no more than 23 Republicans could desert Ryan.
Senate Republicans and Democrats were meeting separately Wednesday to pick their leadership teams.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is keeping his job in a chamber that Republicans will control by 52-48. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is retiring after a 30-year Senate career and seems certain to be replaced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner and AP writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.