Republicans took control of the House and their leader, John A. Boehner took the Speaker's gavel Wednesday, promising conservatives they would stay true to their roots, cut spending and attempt to shrink the size of government. For Boehner that means he will try to be the same man with the same goals, but with a brand new title.
Fighting through his emotions, and visibly crying as he made his way through the House chamber, Boehner raised his hand and took the oath of office, sworn in by Michigan Democrat John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress.
It was a peaceful transfer of power; The nation's top Republican is now second in the presidential line of succession behind the Democratic President and Vice President.
Boehner took the Speaker's gavel from Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who becomes Minority Leader, following a ceremonial voice. The tally was 241 to 173. Every Republican supported Boehner but 19 Democrats voted either against Pelosi or did not vote at all.
"We gather here today at a time of great challenges," Boehner said, pointing to rising health costs despite the passage of a health reform law, the size of the national debt, and the scale of government spending.
"Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress," Boehner said. "No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions."
Boehner said he is aware of the will of voters, which had put Democrats in charge of the House for the past four years.
"The American people have humbled us," he said. "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," he said, referring to himself as "caretaker" of the gavel.
Boehner singled out the 94 freshmen in the 112th Congress - nine Democrats and 85 Republicans, calling on them to be mindful of the "trust placed in you by your constituents."
Four busloads of friends, family and residents of Boehner's Ohio district made the journey to watch his speech.
He said he would try to defuse some of the partisanship that has taken over the House in recent years.
"A great deal of scar tissue has built up on both sides of the aisle," Boehner said. "We cannot ignore that, nor should we. My belief has always been, we can disagree without being disagreeable to each other. That's why it is critical this institution operate in a manner that permits a free exchange of ideas, and resolves our honest differences through a fair debate and a fair vote. We may have different – sometimes, very different – ideas for how to go about achieving the common good, but it is our shared goal. It is why we serve," Boehner said.
But defusing partisanship will be hard. Boehner and Republicans have made their first order of business repealing the health reform bill that Democrats passed last year. The effort is sure to fail; Democrats still control the Senate and President Obama would veto the repeal bill.
Before handing the gavel to Boehner, Pelosi gave a speech lauding what Democrats had accomplished during their tenure. She focused on the passage of health reform and new rules to police Wall Street. No Republicans supported either of those efforts.