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Boehner Re-Elected House Speaker; 113th Congress Begins Official Business

Aired January 3, 2013 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: This is the people's house. This is the people's gavel. It represents a sacred trust. May we all fulfill that trust and make real the ideals of democratic government. With respect for our Constitution, with faith in the American people, with hope for the future of our country, I present the people's gavel to the speaker of the House, John Boehner. May God bless you.

(INAUDIBLE) to Speaker Boehner, may God bless this Congress, my God always bless the United States of America. My colleagues, the speaker of the House, John Boehner.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Leader Pelosi, thank you for your kind words. Members of the House and the Senate, my wife Debbie who's with us today, thankfully the girls are working, all of you and our fellow countrymen, you know, we meet again at democracies great port of call. Every two years, at this hour, the Constitution brings a new order to this House. It's an interlude for reflection. A glimpse of old truce. And to our new members and their families, let me just say, welcome.

I know you're feeling a bit awe struck at this moment. History runs through this building. And now you're among a select few to share in this privilege. And for those of you who are returning, who've walked these aisles before, maybe it's time we get a little awe struck again.

You know, the way our founders envisioned it, the republic would be led by citizens who recognize that the blessings that we receive by governing ourselves. And it requires that we give something of ourselves. Everything depended on this. So they made each other and their successors a swear an oath of allegiance. In a few moments, I will take this oath for the 12th time as the representative from the eighth district of Ohio. It is word for word the same oath that we all take. And note that it makes no mention of party or faction or title. Contains no reference to agendas or to platforms. Only to the Constitution. The one addition we dare make, as George Washington did at the very first inaugural, is to invoke the assistance of our Heavenly Father.

This covenant makes us servants posterity. It calls us to refuse the pull of passing interest and follow the fixed art (ph) of a more perfect union. Put simply, we're sent here not to be something, but to do something. Or as I like to call it, doing the right thing.

It's a big job and it comes with big challenges. Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. And these are not separate problems. At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of steam (ph). The American dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt.

Break its hold, we begin to our economy free. Jobs will come home and confidence will come back. And we do this not just to boost GDP or reduce unemployment, but to secure for our children a future of freedom and opportunity. And, frankly, nothing is more important.

As Washington wrote in his farewell address, we should not throw upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. That burden is ours and so is the opportunity. There's no substitute for the wisdom of the people. We here are their servants. As speaker, I pledge to listen and to do all I can to help all of you carry out your oath of office that we're all about to take. Because in our hearts we know it's wrong to pass this debt on to our kids and our grandkids. Now we have to be willing, truly willing, to make this problem right.

Public service was never meant to be an easy living. Extraordinary challenges to man, extraordinary leadership. So if you've come here to see your name in the lights or to pass off a political victory as some accomplishment, you've come to the wrong place. The door's right behind you. If you come here humbled by the opportunity to serve, if you've come here to be the determined voice of the people, if you've come here to carry the standard of leadership demanded not by our constituents, but by the times, then you've come to the right place.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven. And for the 113th Congress, it is a time to rise. When the day is over and the verdict is read, maybe it's said that we well and faithfully did our duty to ensure freedom and that freedom will endure and prevail, so help us God.

I am now ready to take the oath of office and I would ask the dean of the House of representatives, the Honorable John Dingell of Michigan, to administer the oath of office.

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: The gentlemen from Ohio will please raise his right hand.

Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?

BOEHNER: I do.

DINGELL: Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

According to precedent, the chair will swear in the members en masse. So all the members-elect will rise and the chair will now administer the oath of office. If all members-elect will raise their right hands.

Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties on the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God.

CONGRESS: I do.

BOEHNER: Congratulations. You're now a member of the 113th Congress.

The House will be in order. The House will be in order. The chair recognizes the gentle lady from Washington state.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Republican Conference, I am directed by that conference to notify the House officially that the Republican members have selected as majority leader the gentlemen from Virginia, the Honorable Eric Cantor.

BOEHNER: The chair recognizes the gentlemen from California, Mr. Becerra.

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I have been directed to report to the House that the Democratic members have selected as minority leader the gentle woman from the state of California, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi.

BOEHNER: The chair recognize the gentle lady from Washington state, Mrs. McMorris Rodgers.

RODGERS: Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Republican Conference, I'm directed by that conference to notify the House officially that the Republican members have selected as majority whip the gentlemen from California, the Honorable Kevin McCarthy.

BOEHNER: The chair recognizes the gentlemen from California, Mr.Becerra.

BECERRA: Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, I have been directed to report to the House that the Democratic members have selected as minority whip the gentlemen from Maryland, the Honorable Hoyer, and as assistant Democratic leader, the gentlemen from South Carolina, the Honorable James Clyburn.

BOEHNER: The chair recognizes the gentle lady from Washington state, Mrs. McMorris Rodgers.

RODGERS: Mr. Speaker, I offer a privileged resolution and ask for its immediate consideration.

BOEHNER: The clerk will report the resolution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Resolution One, resolved, that Karen L. Haas of the state of Maryland be and is herby chosen clerk of the House of Representatives, that Paul D. Irving of the state of Florida be and is hereby chosen --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So now the House of Representatives, the 113th Congress, they are officially beginning their business. They're getting ready for two years of activity. The new speaker is the old speaker. There was really never much doubt that John Boehner would be re-elected speaker of the House and there really wasn't any doubt that Nancy Pelosi would be re-elected the minority leader, the Democratic leader, in the House of Representatives.

Dana Bash is our senior congressional correspondent.

Dana, a very historic day for the United States of America. An important day. And you saw John Boehner, once again, over the past hour or so, as usual, he gets very emotional on these momentous occasions.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here sure does. And it is definitely, as guaranteed as the sun rising in the morning, that he will break down a little bit when he gives a pretty major address.

But I think there were a couple of interesting points that he made that we should maybe talk about. And one is he talked about the fact that perhaps people should be a little more awe struck about where they are here. A clear message to everybody that, you know, you have to take what you're doing here seriously. He understands how tough it has been, not just for him, but for the country to watch this Congress and Washington come to the brink over the past week or so on the fiscal cliff issue.

The other thing that he said is that you should come here to do something, not to be something. That is also part of a nod that he gave to the many conservatives in his caucus who do very much stand on principal and simply don't care about whether or not they are going to get re-elected, don't care about whether or not they're going to be seen as bad guys by some portion of the country because they want to do what they came to do here, which is, for the most part, cut federal spending and keep taxes low. So there were a couple of very interesting messages in that speech, Wolf.

BLITZER: And let me bring in Gloria Borger.

Gloria, as we watched the beginning of this new congress, the 113th Congress, not a whole lot of new faces among the leadership right there. We saw the Republican leadership basically remaining the same with Eric Cantor, the number two, the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, the number three, the majority whip.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the same leadership. I think there's a new question, though. And the new question is really, who is going to speak for the Republican Party in this next session of Congress. We just saw a vote on the fiscal cliff where John Boehner voted one way, his number two voted in another direction --

BLITZER: And number three. BORGER: And number three. And what we saw for the first time in that fiscal cliff vote in a very long time is that legislation got passed in the House without a majority of the majority. In other words, Boehner's majority didn't vote for it overwhelmingly, and yet legislation could still get passed. We don't know whether that's the wave of the future. We don't know whether the speaker would be willing to do that again. But we're going to have to wait and see whether the speaker actually does speak for his caucus anymore or whether it continues to be divided because that is something the White House is, of course, looking at, Wolf, as they think of the legislation they want to get through the Congress.

BLITZER: And let me bring our Jim Acosta in. He's been taking a closer look at the new faces that are coming here to Washington. New faces in the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives.

Eighty-four House freshmen elected on November 6th. Three of them have already been sworn in because they were filling special election seats. Twelve newly elected senators, eight Democrats, three Republicans, one Independent, Angus King of Maine, plus 13 if you count Tim Scott, the now former congressman, now the U.S. senator from South Carolina who's taking over Jim DeMint's seat. Jim DeMint giving up his Senate seat to become head of the Heritage Foundation here in Washington, D.C. It's an interesting mix on both the House side and the Senate side, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And just about an hour ago we saw something that wrapped up over here that was very interesting. Elizabeth Warren, who is the newly sworn in senator from Massachusetts, she is replacing Scott Brown, who she beat last November. They had a very boisterous swearing in ceremony for her here in the Russell Office Building on the Capitol.

And I have to tell you, Wolf, she was coming out very feisty today. I had a chance just to interaction with her for a few moments as she was heading in and I asked her, you know, will you be working across party lines? Will we see both sides working together? And she would only say, "I hope so. I hope so." And then she came out and gave a very feisty speech to a big, cheering group of supporters.

And I had a chance to talk to David Axelrod, who was a former top adviser to President Obama, his re-election campaign. He was attending this ceremony here. And he was saying it's ironic in how a lot of senators tried to stop her from making her way not only into the Senate, but regulating the banking industry. And now, he said, they're going to have to yield the floor to Senator Warren. So on -- that's on one side of the aisle.

On the other side of the aisle, Wolf, I had a chance to catch up with Ted Cruz, who is the incoming senator from Texas. A Tea Party-backed conservative Republican. I asked him, will you be compromising up here, working on compromise in the next couple of months? He didn't answer that question. He said, well he hopes to solve some problems up here. And he went on to call the fiscal cliff agreement that was just reached a lousy deal. So while we are seeing much more diversity up here, nearly 100 women members of Congress, it may be getting more partisan as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: It probably will be. The next two years are going to be lively.

Let's go back to Dana.

Dana, the vote for John Boehner, it was pretty lopsided. There were a few -- a little bit of grumbling. Explain to our viewers, who might have missed it, what happened.

BASH: That's right. Obviously he was re-elected as speaker. But there were about a dozen Republicans -- we're still trying to make sure we have the final count right -- but about a dozen Republican who did not vote for him. Protest votes. Some voted for Eric Cantor. Some voted for other members of the caucus. And so that was definitely a symbolic way for them to say, we don't think John Boehner has done a good job and done the job that they expect him to do.

A couple of the votes for somebody else came from members who hadn't even been sworn in yet. Brand-new Republican members. One from Oklahoma, for example. One from northern Florida. Both of them are very, very conservative. Won primaries against, at least in one case, they won a primary against a long time incumbent Republican. And so those are some of the voices that really have been giving Boehner a hard time and made it -- has made -- have made it very difficult for him to rally Republicans and rally the caucus for some kind of deal, whether it was the one he was trying to do with the president most recently on the fiscal cliff, or a year and a half ago on the debt ceiling.

But, all in all, the speaker had a very large -- very large support from his members. And it should be noted that it is not unusual for speakers, Republicans and Democrats, to have dissent within. For example, Nancy Pelosi, she had several Democrats not vote for her. Even -- I remember Gabby Giffords voted for John Lewis as a symbolic -- not sure if it was so much of a protest vote, but as a symbolic way to say that she, as a moderate Democrat, didn't support the liberal speaker.

So it isn't unusual and -- but I think that the buzz and the discussion about Boehner and whether or not he was -- survived really had to do with the fact that he has not had a great couple of weeks with the fiscal cliff deal dying and, of course, with this Sandy aid package blowing up when he pulled that from the floor.

BLITZER: Yes, he did get that Senate language passed. He voted along, with the majority of the House of Representatives, but it was a minority within his own caucus. More -- a lot more Republicans voted against that Senate language to get -- allow the fiscal cliff legislation to be passed. He was with the minority of the majority, if you will, on the Republican side. And that was embarrassing for a speaker of the House.

But as you have pointed out repeatedly, Dana, he made a point of voting and advertising his vote. And, traditionally, the speakers don't necessarily have to vote. BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: They only do so when they think that there's a powerful message they want to send, and he sent that powerful message. He was not about to see 98 percent of middle class families, people earning under $400,000 a year, $450,000 a year, to see their taxes going up. He wanted to make that point. He's now been re-elected speaker of the House.

All right, we're going to have some of the highlights of this very important, historic day in Washington. We'll take a quick break. Much more of the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here in Washington watching a very important day, an historic day indeed, the start of the 113th Congress. Members of the Senate, the new members, members of the House of Representatives, they've now been sworn in. the speaker of the House, John Boehner, has been re-elected. Nancy Pelosi has been re-elected. The minority leader of the House of Representatives. And they've begun formally the business of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.

Freshman lawmakers raised the money, did the paperwork, they pounded the pavements to get to their seats today, but they all recognized one member of Congress who overcame even bigger hurdles to reach the Capitol.

Senator Mark Kirk, the Republican from Illinois, suffered a severe stroke a year ago. He spent this past year in physical therapy learning to walk again. Vice President Joe Biden was there to welcome Senator Kirk as he climbed the steps of the United States Capitol.

What a dramatic moment indeed. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois with the vice president. You see him right there. He's doing it one step at a time. It's been a very, very tough, difficult year for the senator from Illinois, but he's managing to move forward. We congratulate him and we congratulate all the members of the House and the Senate.

Gloria, one step at a time. This new Congress is going to have to take one step at a time because they've got major issues coming up in the weeks ahead. They've got to deal with what they call that sequestration within two months. That's the mandatory domestic and national security spending cuts that so many members hate. They've got to deal with the whole issue of moving forward on that -- the debt ceiling, to make sure they raise the debt ceiling so the United States does not go into default. And they've got a continuing resolution to make sure that the government continues to operate. And there's going to be --

BORGER: And that's before they get to the agenda.

BLITZER: They've got crisis after crisis after crisis.

BORGER: And that's before they get to the president's agenda, which includes things like immigration reform, some kind of gun control, energy policy. So they've got to get through all of these speed bumps before they can even get to the topics that are part of the president's second term.

And I think a couple of things have happened, Wolf, that we ought to take note of. The fiscal cliff was messy, didn't produce an awful lot of outcome as far as spending cuts are concerned. But what we did see for the first time is that some Republicans could actually vote for a tax increase. Even if it was only on the wealthiest individuals, they had sworn up and down they would never do that. They actually did it and they lived another day. So that's kind of off --

BLITZER: The tax rate -- the tax rate on the wealthiest --

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: Income earners went from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

BORGER: Right. Off the table now. Done. Off the table. That was the big topic during the campaign.

The next big topic is more Republican turf really than it is Democratic turf. This is more comfortable for Republicans and it's reducing the size of government, it's cutting spending, it's looking at entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security and finding ways to make sure they don't go bust, keep them from spiraling out of control. That's Republican turf. The big question we have is, who's going to lead the Republican Party in the conversations with the White House and the Democrats on this? We don't know.