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Ryan Re-Elected House Speaker; Ethics Committee Legislation Scrapped; Pelosi Addresses 115th Congress; Speaker Ryan Addresses 115 Congress; 115 Congress Sworn In. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 3, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want everyone to stand by right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The new Congress convenes and Republicans are in charge. Take a look at this, live pictures coming in from the House of Representatives, where the speaker, Paul Ryan, will be addressing lawmakers any moment now. We're going to bring you his remarks live. He's walking in. There you see him right now walking in to the House of Representatives on the floor. He's followed by Nancy Pelosi, who will actually introduce Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House. Paul Ryan will address members of the House of Representatives and address the nation as well.
He just tweeted, by the way, Paul Ryan, "honored to be elected speaker of the House for the 115th Congress."
Republicans are the majority in the 115th Congress and they vow to advance the agenda of the in-coming Republican president, Donald Trump. We're going to hear from Paul Ryan momentarily.
CNN correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.
Phil, set the scene for us. We'll hear from Paul Ryan. We'll hear from Nancy Pelosi. She will introduce - she's the Democratic leader, the minority leader, in the House of Representatives. She'll introduce the speaker. But go ahead.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. And what we just saw a few minutes ago, Wolf, was the completion of the House vote to speaker. And what we actually saw was Paul Ryan faced fewer defections this time around than he did when he was initially elected speaker.
Now, why does that matter? Obviously Paul Ryan drew some angst from members of his own conference in his decision not to kind of go full- throated behind the president-elect throughout the campaign. Well, it didn't have any impact whatsoever on this vote. No real major defections. Paul Ryan will be the next speaker of the House and obviously Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House, once again elected minority leader. She only had a few defections as well. So, no major problems within the conference or caucus for either leader. Now they will be what we expected, the leaders of a Congress that will be run by Republicans.
But, Wolf, as you guys have been talking about, the most interesting element of the day is before this was even possible, before this even happened, Republicans ran into a problem. The problem late last night behind closed doors on the decision to try and take the independence away from an outside ethics commission. That was - drew immediate blowback, not just from Democrats, not even from the president-elect's Twitter account, but also from people, constituents back at home. That was the primary reason, I'm told, from House lawmakers and their aides, that they eventually decided to walk that back, strip that language going forward.
So before they were even sworn in, House Republicans facing some issues that they had to deal with, but now trying to kind of get back on track here with an enormous agenda ahead, a lot of power, and no shortage of ambition for these 240 plus lawmakers. They have a lot of things on their plate, Wolf, no question about it.
BLITZER: So are they giving Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, Phil, a lot of the credit for this very dramatic and speedy about face among the Republican leadership, the Republican members of the House, to go back to business as existed over the past eight years as far as the ethics panel is concerned?
MATTINGLY: Look, it played a role. There's no question about it. After the president-elect tweeted that he actually thought the independent committee was unfair, but he disagreed with the timing. That was actually the same message, Wolf, I'm told that the leadership, the Republican leadership, gave their members last night as they told them this amendment related to the ethics committee was not a good idea. It wasn't something the people wanted to see. It certainly wasn't something that they should be doing right out of the gate. The 115th Congress should be defined by Republicans and what they wanted to do going forward, not this ethics issue. And, guess what, they were right. This has kind of defined the day up to this point.
However, I think it's worth noting, that while the president-elect certainly weighed in and lawmakers who are - kind of want to work with him going forward paid attention to that tweet. It is also important to note the constituents, as they always do on Capitol Hill, they matter, and phones were ringing off the hook, I'm told, in some member's offices. Nothing makes members react quicker than recognizing that their constituents have a major problem with something they've done. That, more than anything else I'm told, was the driving force behind the decision to have that emergency meeting and decide to strip it out by unanimous consent earlier today, Wolf.
BLITZER: You saw Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary, also a former members of the House of Representatives, he's there as well. He was smiling and joking. Former members of the House, they, of course, can be on the House floor during a ceremonial event like this.
There you see Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, the Democratic leader in the House, she will introduce the speaker, Paul Ryan, who will then speak. We, of course, are going to have live coverage of all of this coming up. The members and the former members and special guests, they're being seated right now. She's gaveling this session to order.
Let's listen in to Nancy Pelosi.
[14:05:10] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It is my honor to join Speaker Ryan in welcoming all of you to the 115th Congress. To new members and your families, in this special moment, I offer a special greeting and special congratulations. Each of us comes here sustained by the love of our own family and the trust of our constituents. I am grateful to my husband, Paul, our five children, our nine grandchildren and my D'Alesandro family, especially our patriarch, my brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, and to the people of San Francisco, thank you once again for the privilege of representing our beautiful and diverse city.
In a brief span of days, we will inaugurate a new president, Donald Trump, and a new vice president, our former colleague, Mike Pence. At that noon hour, we will enact the peaceful transfer of power that is the bedrock of our republic. For eight years, our country has been graced by the trailblazing leadership and dignity of President Obama and Michelle Obama. At their side have been Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden. Let us give the Obamas, the Bidens and their families our thanks for all that they have given America.
Today, as we celebrate the renewal of our democracy, let us pay tribute to the men and women in uniform, those who serve or have served, and their families who's sacrifice and bravery are guarantors of our democracy. Let us thank our men and women in uniform.
In this chamber, we stand at the very heart of the American experiment. Every time each of us steps onto the floor, we carry with us the hopes and the hurts of those who have sent us here. We surely have distinct political identities as Republicans and Democrats, but above all we are all Americans.
Here - here we have the responsibility and the power to lift the lives and the hopes of the American people. Our first responsibility is to secure the nation, embodied in the oath we take to support and defend. We must be strong and smart in defending our land, defeating terrorists and advancing our vital interest in the world of promise and - a world of promise and peril. America's actions must always be equal to America's values, honoring our Constitution and respecting our men and women in uniform. Another responsibility is to further secure our economy and truly secure opportunity for hard-working families. We, in this Congress, must focus on job creation and growing paychecks every day for every one and everywhere in our country.
From the rural heartlands, the cities and the suburbs, we must ensure that those two do their part have the opportunity to buy a home, address the aspirations of their children, and retire with dignity. And our responsibility is also to secure our democracy. Our founders pledged their sacred honor to create a democracy, a government of the many, not a government of the money. Now our sacred trust is to keep that covenant. We cannot permit our democracy to be suborned by the checkbooks of the powerful or be subverted by the dark operations of a foreign regime.
[14:10:28] All of us cherish our ideals. We do have our differences. And they are real. But I hope that we'll each be humble enough to accept the good faith of others. I hope, too, that we will find wisdom from the scripture where it says to minister to the needs of God's creation, humanity and nature, is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us. In that spirit, in order to meet the needs of the American people, House Democrats pledge to seek common ground wherever we can, to forge a bipartisan path forward on job-creating infrastructure, to make taxes and foreign trade fair to American workers, to help Americans balance work and family life, and to drain the swamp of big money from our campaigns. All of these provisions, President-elect Trump has pledged, and we will seek common ground. But, we will stand our ground wherever in good conscious we must. If there's an attempt to destroy the guarantee of Medicare, harm Medicare, Social Security or the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will stand our ground.
If there's an assault on clean air and clean water, on civil rights, women's rights, or LGBT rights, if dreamers and their immigrants families face the nightmare of deportation, Democrats will stand our ground.
And if there's an attempt to silence our voices for common sense gun violence prevention with Gabby Giffords here in the chamber as our witness, Democrats will stand our ground.
Many of us just celebrated Christmas, the birth of Christ. In sharing in our humanity, God enabled us to participate in his divinity. This spark of divinity is acknowledged in every faith tradition. In recognizing the spark in others, we reaffirm it in ourselves. Honor it - honoring it - honoring that spark of divinity, we are commanded to respect the dignity and worth of all of God's children and to work together for the common good.
In that spirit, I offer my congratulations to the speaker of this new Congress, a proud son of Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. (INAUDIBLE).
Paul Ryan is a leader of principal, immersed in ideas and gifted with experience. As we all know, Paul Ryan has had the full breadth of experience on Capitol Hill, from (INAUDIBLE) waiter, to hill staffer, to congressman. He went on to be a sincere and proud advocate for his point of view as chairman of the Budget Committee and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In a place as demanding as the speakership, I know he gathers strength daily from the family he loves so dearly, from his wife, Janna, his children Liza, Charlie and Sam, and their entire family. Let us acknowledge the Ryan family.
Are they there?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, they're right there.
PELOSI: Oh, there they are.
[14:15:10] RYAN: It's Wisconsin.
PELOSI: Oh, Wisconsin. I got it.
Mr. Speaker, God bless them, God bless you, God bless Wisconsin, God bless the members of this House, God bless the United States of America. This is the people's House, this is the people's gavel. In the people's name, it is my privilege to handle the gavel to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
RYAN: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, Nancy. (INAUDIBLE). Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Father (ph).
I'll be relatively brief.
I want to thank madam leader. You know, I stood in this spot very, very many times, yet today, though, feels a whole lot different. Part of it has to do with all the new faces in the House. You look at all the proud spouses, these beaming children at their best, people's parents. It's hard, if not impossible, to resist this rush of enthusiasm. There is no sense of foreboding in this House today. There's only the sense of potential. It kind of reminds you that no matter how long you have been here, you haven't seen it all. And so I just want to say to our new members and to their families, thank you, congratulations and welcome.
To my own priest, Father Paul, thank you for being here with us today. Appreciate you. And to my center, my family, Janna, Liza, Charlie, Sam, thank you for all that you have done to make this all possible. Thank you.
There's another reason for optimism, and that is what we've already achieved by meeting here this moment. Just months ago, our country held a great electoral contest. And at times, it was a little intense. As you all know, when you're in the heat of it, in the heat of the kind of campaign we had, you start to wonder, will the tempers ever cool? Will the system still hold? Does our old, rich tradition still have that magic? Well, it turns out it does. The clash of opinions, the hue and cry of campaigns, the ranker and the dissention, in the end, they all dissolve in the silent and peaceful transfer of power.
And so in just a few weeks' time, we will welcome a new president who offers us yet another new beginning. A new chance to work toward a more perfect union. For all of our arguments and all of our differences, we are all united by a deep, abiding love of our country. It is this slender but sturdy thread that holds us together. We always seem to forget this, but it has never failed us. That is why, when the votes are counted and the people have spoken, we all accept the verdict. We come back from the campaign trail, we pack up the yard signs and today, today, as one body, he pledge allegiance to one flag, the red, the white and the blue.
That's not the only thing that we have in common. I don't care what your party is. Find one person in this House who doesn't want the best for America? Find one person in this House who does not want to see help given to the unemployed, or care for the sick, or education for the young or honor or troops. Here - who here among us does not want to open wide the door to opportunity? Who here among us does not want every American, ever creed and every color to cross the threshold? You cannot find one person in this building, not one, and that - that is a true cause for celebration.
[14:20:21] Now, we have a lot to build on. But that being said, this is no time to rest on our laurels but to redouble our efforts. It's no secret that millions and millions of Americans across this country are deeply dissatisfied with their current situation. They have looked to Washington for leadership and all they have gotten is condescension. For years they've suffered quietly - quietly amid shuttered factories and shattered lives. But now, not they have let out a great roar. Now we, their elected representatives, must listen. So I want to say to the American people, we hear you. We will do right by you and we will deliver. We will honor you because you have honored us. We take this sacred trust seriously.
You know, it's not enough to say that the condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life. No matter how much we mean it, in a few years' time, I hope that the people will say of this 115th Congress, that we didn't just pay lip service to this beautiful American idea, that we made it a reality for everyone. We are not here to be, we are here to do. We are here to improve people's lives, grow our economy, keep us safe, improve our health care and our infrastructure, fight poverty, restore self-government. Friends, we've got our work cut out for us. As your speaker, I intend to keep this place running at full speed. When I came into this job, I pledged to restore regular order. Get that committee system working again. Hold regular House and Senate conferences because only a fully-functioning House can really truly do the people's business.
We've made some pretty good progress on that front. Take our work on finding cures for deadly diseases, or beating back that opioid epidemic, or our work on mental health. These are all things that we should be very proud of. These efforts were directed by the committees and crafted by our members all through regular order. There's still a lot of work to do, like having a fully functioning appropriations process for example.
And so, to the minority, I want to say this, we've never shied away from our disagreements and I do not expect anyone to do so now, but however bright of a contrast that we draw between us, it must never blind us to the common ground that we share. We must never shy away from making progress for the American people wherever we can. And so as your speaker, I promise to uphold the rights of the minority. I promise to hear you out and let you have your say. If I had to sum up, it would be this, agreement whenever possible, but at all times respect.
And to the majority, especially to our returning members, I want to say this, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the kind of thing that most of us only dreamed about. I know because I used to dream about this a lot. The people have given us unified government. And it wasn't because they were feeling generous. It was because they want results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down? How could we let ourselves down? I have, for many months, been asking our members to raise their gaze
and aim high. Now, today, this Congress, let us not be timid but rather reach for that brighter horizon and deliver. And so this old chamber - this old chamber might look the same, but in the hush whispers, in the whirl of activity, you can feel the winds of change. And as I stand here next to that portrait of good old George Washington, I am reminded of a line from one of his favorite plays, "tis not immortals to command success, but we'll do more, we'll deserve it." And so, my dear friends and colleagues, I say to all of you, good luck and God speed.
[14:25:46] Thank you very much.
I'm now ready to take the oath of office and I ask the dean of the House of Representatives, the honorable John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, to administer the oath of office.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you.
If the gentleman from Wisconsin would 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?
RYAN: I do.
CONYERS: Thank you. I now pronounce you the speaker of the House.
RYAN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks, guys. Thank you. Thank you.
Now, according to precedence, the chair will swear in the members- elect en mass. The members-elect will rise. The chair will now administer the oath of office. All members-elect will raise their right hands.
Do you solemnly swear 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?
CROWD: I do.
RYAN: Congratulations, you are all now members of the 115th Congress!
BLITZER: So there you have it, the 115th Congress sworn in. The new speaker is the old speaker, Paul Ryan, sworn in as well. Nancy Pelosi delivering her introductory remarks, the Democratic leader, the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
Gloria Borger is with us. David Chalian is with us.
Gloria, I thought the speaker took the high road and he reached out to the Democratic minority and said, you know what, there are plenty of areas where we disagree. Let's find those areas where we can agree.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think, you know, he said that he was very honest about saying there were points during this campaign which was so divisive that we all wondered whether the system would actually still hold. And, of course, it does.
I mean I must say, I used to cover Congress, and every time I watch this, I think it's a fabulous moment. The bringing in of the new members with their families on the floor.
One thing I want to point out here is that two-thirds of current House Republicans have never served with a Republican president. So the excitement is palpable from Republicans as it was from Paul Ryan, who, for the first time as we were talking about earlier, believes that he can actually get some things done that he never could get done before with a Democratic president.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: He said he was dreaming of this moment, right?
BORGER: Dreaming of it. And he - and he was.
CHALIAN: He was.
[14:29:47] I agree with you, this day is always full of hope and promise. It's probably the one day where the approval rating for Congress probably breaks into the 20s, the rest of the two years the country doesn't like so much. But he also said that the unified all Republican government was not given to them out of some good will by the American people because they want to see results. And now that's going to be Paul Ryan's job to deliver results in a way that the country