Republicans had their big day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as they moved into the majority on the House side and elevated their numbers in the Senate. Of the 94 freshman lawmakers in the 112th Congress, 85 Republicans joined their Party in Washington to help hand the House gavel over to now Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican.
“The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker,” said Mr. Boehner. “After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.”
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, received the majority of the votes from her Party, and 19 Democrats either voted for North Carolina Democrat Heath Schuler or other individual Democrats like John Lewis of Georgia or Reps. Costa and Cardoza of California who voted for each other.
The floor of the House was full of both new members and veterans as well as their children and grandchildren. Former Florida Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, now MSNBC anchor, used his floor privileges to greet old colleagues and roamed the Speaker’s Lobby weaving around reporters with MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski.
The numbers in the House now stand at 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats, while the Senate stands at 51 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Republicans in the House quickly passed changes in the rules following new members’ swearing-in. House members voted to change voting procedures on increasing the country’s debt limit. Republicans also passed a rule that would warrant any legislation proposed to cite a Constitutional power that grants Congress to enact the proposed law.
“The passage of these reforms marks a first step towards restoring the House as an institution focused on listening to the people. By respecting the Constitution, making it easier to cut spending, and empowering the people to see for themselves what Congress is doing, we are forging ahead with a clean break from entrenched rituals that have allowed Washington to duck tough choices,” said Speaker Boehner. “All bills will now be available to the public three days before coming to a vote. Legislation must now be accompanied by a clear statement of constitutional authority. Reforms that promote fiscal responsibility have supplanted rules that protected and enabled runaway spending. These reforms recognize that fixing our economy requires changing Congress itself.”
The changes to House rules passed by 240-to-191.
Senate Democratic leadership, on the other hand, knowing that stopping a GOP filibuster will take more than just poaching a moderate Republican or two, are looking to change the filibuster rules in their chamber. Senate GOP leadership is calling this proposed action a “power grab.”