Newly elected Speaker of the House John Boehner (back, left) is greeted by Rep. Charles Rangel (back, center) and other members of Congress as he arrives on the House floor on the opening day of the 112th United States Congress in Washington on Wednesday.
Kevin Lamarque  /  Reuters
Newly elected Speaker of the House John Boehner (back, left) is greeted by Rep. Charles Rangel (back, center) and other members of Congress as he arrives on the House floor on the opening day of the 112th United States Congress in Washington on Wednesday.
By
updated 1/6/2011 8:13:30 AM ET 2011-01-06T13:13:30

With the ceremonial swearing in of the 112th Congress, Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, promising a fierce challenge to President Barack Obama and the potential for legislative gridlock in the countdown to the 2012 presidential election.

Rep. John Boehner, a long-serving Ohioan from a working-class background, was awarded the speaker's gavel Wednesday, ending the historic term of Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco liberal who was the first woman to preside over the House. The speaker is second-in-line for the presidency after the vice president.

Video: Watch Pelosi hand House reins to Boehner

With the Senate still in Democratic hands — albeit with a smaller majority — House Republicans face bleak prospects for passing their ambitious legislative agenda, including a quick — no-debate — vote next week on repealing Obama's health care overhaul.

    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California
    6. Christie acknowledges federal subpoena
    7. Obama says Fox News's O'Reilly 'absolutely' unfair in extended interview
    8. Christie security officer hit with shoplifting charges
  1. More politics
    1. Obama's 2nd year
      AP
    2. Political Cartoons

But they now can press legislation and conduct oversight hearings that will consume White House time and energy and further underline sharp divisions in a political system already consumed by angry partisanship.

Dealing with 'scar tissue'
Boehner acknowledged as much in a brief speech as he took the House gavel, declaring "a great deal of scar tissue has built up on both sides of the aisle."

Boehner: It's the 'people's House'

Republicans retook the House majority riding a wave of discontent over Obama's handling of the economy and an uprising among voters sympathetic to newly emerged, ultraconservative Tea Party candidates. Republicans, including dozens of ultraconservative Tea Party-allied colleagues, now face the task of living up to loud promises to cut taxes and shrink the government.

"We gather here today at a time of great challenges," Boehner said in a brief speech on Wednesday. "Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions."

10 things you didn't know about Boehner

While all eyes were on the House, Vice President Joe Biden swore in new members of the Senate, where Democrats' majority has slipped to 53 of 100 seats. Republicans picked up six seats in the November election.

Senators moved quickly to a debate over filibuster rules, with Democratic and Republican leaders accusing each other of obstructing progress and trying to muddle the parliamentary system. Existing Senate rules allow the opposition party to block action on legislation unless the majority can accumulate 60 votes in favor, an often impossible task in the closely divided chamber.

Focus on tackling debt, creating jobs
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the long-serving Democrat who faced a serious challenge from a Tea Party candidate, signaled his party stood ready to fight in defense of Obama legislation already passed and to move forward with the president's agenda in the next two years.

"We have to do even more to help middle-class families, to create jobs, to hasten our energy independence, to improve our children's education and to fix our broken immigration system," he said.

10 staffers who've left the Obama administration
  1. Most popular

Senate Republicans echoed the House theme. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said the voters had made it clear they "want lawmakers to cut Washington, tackle the debt, rein in government and to help create the right conditions for private sector growth."

In the House, once members get down to business, Boehner may have a struggle keeping his caucus unified.

Many Republican freshmen will feel obliged to answer the call of hardcore conservative constituencies that sent them to Washington on contentious matters such as the need to raise the federal debt limit. The U.S. deficit is already bumping up against the old debt ceiling under heavy spending by Obama as he tried to pull the country out of the deepest economic slump since the 1930s Great Depression.

Republicans are determined to cut that spending and move the government out of the way of private enterprise with what they are calling their "cut and growth majority" in the House.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California
Story: Change coming to the Obama White House

By way of example, House leaders set their first spending cut vote for Thursday, a 5 percent reduction in the amount spent for lawmakers' and committees' offices and leadership staff. Aides estimate the savings at $35 million over the next nine months.

Republicans have pledged to vote at least once a week on bills that cut spending. And the new House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, challenged Obama to include significant spending cuts in his State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

But Republicans acknowledge they must do more than simply oppose Obama's every proposal, as they did the past two years of Democratic rule. That could mean distasteful compromise, anathema to Republican hard-liners, setting up the potential for conflicts in the party.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Boehner takes gavel as GOP takes back power

  1. Closed captioning of: Boehner takes gavel as GOP takes back power

    >>> is now under way, and there is a new speaker of the house . republican john boehner of ohio was today joined by 10 of his 11 siblings. the ten-term congressman from humble beginnings and blue collar roots today became the 53rd speaker of the house in u.s. history . he received the gavel from now former speaker nancy pelosi , and in keeping with the gravity of the ceremony, the new speaker's now famous overflowing emotions briefly did just that when his wife and family were introduced to the packed chamber. this first day of the new congress is the first official day of divided government and republican control of the house. now the real work begins. we begin our coverage of all of it tonight with our capitol hill correspondent kelly o'donnell. good evening.

    >> reporter: john boehner talked about today's transfer of the gavel as a reminder of how temporary this power can be. he's been in congress for 20 years, waiting to become mr. speaker. the biggest day of john boehner 's career started with a workout at the gym and cameras lined up outside his home.

    >> thumbs up and the american people are in charge.

    >> reporter: the people sent more than 100 new members to serve in this 112th congress.

    >> i do take this obligation freely.

    >> reporter: including 63 new house republican seats. today, children and families were given special permission to be on the house floor. among them, former vice president dan quayle , whose son is now an arizona congressman. boehner 's trademark tears welled up when nancy pelosi acknowledged his wife and family. after four years as the nation's first woman speaker of the house , pelosi listed democrats' accomplishments under her watch.

    >> with the greatest consumer protections in history and passed a strong patient's bill of rights .

    >> reporter: then turned the page.

    >> i now pass this gavel and the sacred trust that goes with it to the new speaker. god bless you, speaker boehner . [ cheers and applause ]

    >> reporter: boehner spoke of both tradition --

    >> that includes this gavel, which i accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing i am but its caretaker. after all, this is the people's house.

    >> reporter: and change in how congress works. pledging more openness and less spending.

    >> legislators in the public will have three days to read a bill before it comes to a vote.

    >> reporter: across the capitol, where democrats remain in charge --

    >> do you swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the united states ?

    >> reporter: vice president biden welcomed 16 new senators. 10 of them republicans. a page turned here, as well. for the first time in 64 years, no member of the kennedy family holds a federal office. and celebrated today, maryland's barbara mccullski has served longer than any woman in history, beginning her 25th year in the senate today. republicans will make largely symbolic moves, next week trying to repeal the president's health care law which certainly won't pass in the senate. brian?

    >> kelly o'donnell on the hill tonight after a big day there. kelly , thanks.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments