House Speaker John A. Boehner narrowly survived his re-election battle on Thursday as the 113th Congress convened at the Capitol amid calls for cooperation on the same issues that left lawmakers gridlocked over the past two years.
In the Senate, the two top leaders have at least for the time being averted a potentially disastrous fight over filibuster rules, and the inspiring return of Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, from a yearlong recovery from a stroke left the upper chamber awash in optimism.
In the House, Republicans and Democrats issued a call to focus on civility, even as they try to tackle big issues.
“If you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place. The door is right behind you,” Mr. Boehner said after winning the speaker’s gavel for the second time. “If you have come here humbled by the opportunity to serve, if you have come here to be the determined voice of the people, if you have come here to carry the standard of leadership demanded not just by our constituents but by the times, then you have come to the right place.”
Indeed, all of the issues that stymied lawmakers remain — and leaders want to add to the list. President Obama and Mr. Boehner have said they want to try to pass immigration legislation, and the recent school shooting in Connecticut has boosted gun control onto the agenda, joining debt and tax reform.
In the speaker’s race, Mr. Boehner received 220 votes, or three more than he needed to guarantee the top post, which leaves him second in the line of presidential succession.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also had defectors. Five of the more conservative members of her Democratic caucus voted for someone other than her.
She urged the chamber to tackle immigration and new rules for campaign finance, and made a push to open up voting laws.
“Surely we can be touched by the better angels of our nature,” she said.
Mr. Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, made pro forma calls to congressional leaders, who told him that they are organized and ready to do business.