Wednesday, January 5, 2011

112th Congress Officially Convenes

The 112th Congress was called to order at noon Wednesday at which time a benediction was read, the Pledge of Allegiance recited and a record of everyone's presence was ordered.

And even as the first call of the House was ordered, new and returning lawmakers went past the 15 minutes allotted for a quorum vote. In the end, only 434 of the 435 members voted present. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who is starting his 13th term, was absent though the reason was not immediately known.

Over in the Senate, lawmakers started their session with new members signing an oath book declaring their allegiance to the Constitution. Vice President Joe Biden then started swearing in members four at a time, starting with Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

As the Congress prepared to meet, a reception was held for House Speaker-Designate John Boehner, who was joined by 10 of his 11 siblings at his swearing in as the 53rd House speaker. Hundreds of festive and loud supporters silenced as soon as the House went into session and the prayer and pledge were read.

But even as they enjoyed the pomp of opening ceremonies accompanied by family on the House floor, Republicans are thinking about first actions -- including budget cutting and a vote to repeal the health care law.

Though Republicans pledged to cut $100 billion in the first year that is not obligated to entitlements, defense and homeland security, they began backtracking almost immediately, noting that they only have half a budget year to work with since government is operating on a continuing resolution until March and the budget year is Oct. 1-Sept. 30. With little more than half a budget year, that's only half of the cuts they say they will get.

"House Republicans will continue to work to reduce spending for the final six months of this fiscal year -- bringing non-security discretionary spending back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels -- yielding taxpayers significant savings and starting a new era of cost cutting in Washington," Conor Sweeney, spokesman for new House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, told Fox News.

House Republicans have also pledged to cut $35 million from their own congressional budget. Imminent Rep. Kristie Noem, R-S.D., considered an up and coming leader and Tea Party budget hawk, said Republicans will "step forward and start cutting money and they're going to start with themselves."

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