Nightly News   |  January 05, 2011

Boehner takes gavel as GOP takes back power

John Boehner of Ohio took the Speaker's gavel from Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, ushering in a new Republican majority in the House determined to overturn some of President Obama's signature policies. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

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>>> 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.