WASHINGTON — Rep.
as Republicans took control of the chamber Wednesday. He pledged to
make the House “honest, accountable and more responsive” to the needs
of the American people.
“The American people have humbled us. They have
refreshed our memories to just how temporary the privilege of serving
is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them,”
Boehner said, waving the symbol of his new office. “That includes this
gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully knowing that I am but
its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s house.”
In introducing the new speaker, Pelosi, D-
She touted her efforts on behalf of children and
families. “We have stood with children,” she said, citing the
improvements in the “safety of the air they breathe, the water they
drink and the food they eat.”
She also mentioned the health care reform legislation, which Republicans have pledged to repeal.
Pelosi also sounded the themes that Democrats have said they will push in the new
She handed the gavel to Boehner, who dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief to wipe away tears, which have become his trademark.
“I pass this gavel and sacred trust that goes with it to the new speaker,” Pelosi said. Boehner then hugged her.
The vote for speaker offered signs of a continued
rift among Democrats, with 19 members of the caucus voting either
present or for other lawmakers, including 11 for Rep.
spectators, including family members, former senators and other
After the perfunctory pledges of cooperation, partisan sniping got under way fast.
Senate Majority Leader
called on his colleagues to consider changing the filibuster rules that
require 60 votes to enact controversial legislation, complaining that
the filibuster has come to be “abused in truly unprecedented fashion.”
“Rather than offer amendments to improve legislation
or compromise for the greater good, as members of this body have done
for generations, the current minority has offered amendments simply to
waste time, delay us from proceeding to a bill, or to score political
points,” Reid said.
to “renew our purpose and our commitment to bipartisanship, not to
double down on a partisan approach that has too often marred lawmaking
Citing the November election of a new Republican
majority in the House, McConnell said, “The big changes today are of
course happening across the dome, and I’d like to welcome the many new
Republican members of
“I wish them great success in achieving the kinds of
reforms and policies the last election was all about,” McConnell added.
As for the
Senators from both parties paid tribute to Sen.
Boehner, 61, has repeatedly said he wants to make
the legislative process in the House more transparent while giving
members a greater opportunity to help craft legislation. Pelosi was
sometimes criticized for centralizing too much power in the speaker’s
office — although her advocates say that she was simply following the
same playbook used by the
But the challenges of governing and holding a perhaps fractious
caucus together may clash with Boehner’s stated goals of a more open
and inclusive process. Already Democrats are slamming next week’s
expected vote in the House to repeal the health care overhaul
legislation because Republicans are not going to allow the repeal bill
to be debated and amended.
“Republicans have now broken at least three of the pledges they made in the election,”
Beyond the health care repeal, Woodhouse cited the
House GOP’s move to exempt the proposed repeal from a requirement that
legislation that increases the federal budget deficit be offset by
spending cuts elsewhere. (Proponents of the health care law say it will
reduce the deficit over the next 20 years.) The
Boehner and dozens of other lawmakers spent the morning at a private bipartisan prayer service at
“Somehow we will discover that we are made to live as brothers,” read one quote from
The pews were full of many new lawmakers and their families. Afterward, incoming Rep.
The cheery atmosphere was quickly interrupted by a
noisy fixture of modern-day politics. As members left the church, an
anti-abortion activist held a large, graphic photo of a fetus as
another yelled through a bullhorn, “Will you use your power to defund
They aren’t “tea party” activists, she noted. “I would like to see more
talk of life issues than taxes,” she advised the new Republican class.
“The economy will fall into place if we get our godly priorities right.”
Later Wednesday, the House is expected take up a
rules package that includes a requirement that all legislation cites
its constitutional authority.
(c) 2011, Tribune Co.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.