114th Congress' Opening Day: Republicans Take the Reins on Capitol Hill

The new Congress kicks off today.

ByABC News
January 6, 2015, 10:28 AM
VIDEO: Cory Gardner's grandma gets surprise phone call from the VP.
VIDEO: Cory Gardner's grandma gets surprise phone call from the VP.

— -- For members of the 114th Congress, today is rife with possibility.

Republicans, fresh off their midterm sweep, are hoping to use their newfound majority to rein in Obama, pass the Keystone XL pipeline and tweak, or even repeal, the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats, now in the minority in both houses, may be holding out hope that Congress can pass meaningful immigration overhaul or increase the minimum wage.

But before the 114th gets down to the gritty business of legislating, lawmakers will squeeze in a little pomp and circumstance: The 13 new senators and 58 new members of the House will snag a photo op with their respective leaders. (In the Senate, that's Vice President Joe Biden. In the House, it's House Speaker John Boehner.)

82 Seconds Of Joe Biden's Cute (And Awkward) Close Encounters With Kids

Vice President Joe Biden today declared he likes "kids better than people."

The Veep cozied up to Senators' children and grandchildren during the mock swearing-in -- but not all the kids were as happy to be there as Biden seemed to be.

Here are some highlights:

-- Erin Dooley

Surprise! Joe Biden Calls Colorado Senator's Grandmother

At the mock swearing-in ceremony for Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Vice President Joe Biden took a few seconds to talk to the senator's grandmother via iPhone.

The vice president took the senator's phone and chatted it up with Gardner's grandmother, Betty.

"She said it's nice talking to you, I don’t have time," Biden said, after passing the phone back to Gardner.

(Betty’s excuse for not talking longer with the Veep – she was watching her son be sworn in).

--Veronica Stracqualursi

Former Boxer Harry Reid: Bruised But Not Down

A visibly bruised Harry Reid released a video message today on the first day of the new Congress, which he is missing due to an injury sustained while exercising last week.

"As most people know, I fought for a couple of years. After any one of those fights, I never looked like I do now," Reid, a former boxer, says. "However, I didn't get this black eye by sparring with Manny by challenging Floyd Mayweather, I didn't go bull riding. I didn't ride a motorcycle. I was exercising in my new home and the doctors have told me I've got to take it easy."

"I had a presentation all made to start the new Congress. I've been doing new Congresses for this will be my 33rd year and I really have some homesickness," he added. "We're going to continue to fight for good things for this country. We understand the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer…we're going to do everything we can to fulfill the expectations the middle class has and we will continue to fight for them and we are going to do that."

It's unknown when Reid will return to work in the Capitol.

--Arlette Saenz

Congresswomen’s Twirl Caught on Vine

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., decided to add some flair to the opening of the U.S. House of Representatives today. Sinema gave a thumbs up and a little twirl on the House floor. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, also joined in on the fun.

--Veronica Stracqualursi

John Boehner Narrowly Re-Elected House Speaker

On the first ballot, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, has narrowly survived a tense vote to win a third term as House Speaker, winning the support of 216 of his colleagues.

Twenty-four Republicans voted for someone else, while one other voted present.

Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida won the most Republican votes aside from Boehner, pulling in 12 votes in his longshot bid for speaker. Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Rand Paul of Kentucky each received one vote.

The House Speaker does not need to be a Member of Congress, but it always has been a member of the House.

--John Parkinson

It’s Officially Mitch McConnell’s Senate

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., officially became Senate Majority Leader this afternoon after Vice President Joe Biden swore-in him and 32 other senators.

“I’m really optimistic about what we can accomplish,” McConnell said. “I want to welcome back all of our returning members. I want to congratulate the many new ones.”

McConnell added a note about new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is working from home after an injury sustained while exercising last week.

“Senator Reid is a former boxer. He’s tough, and I know he’ll be back in fighting form soon enough,” McConnell said. “We all wish him a speedy recovery.”

-- Arlette Saenz

Harry Reid Missing First Day of New Congress

Sen. Harry Reid will miss his first day as Senate Minority Leader today because of the injury he sustained while exercising last week.

"Senator Reid is in Washington but on orders from his doctors he will not come into the office so that his injuries can continue to heal," Adam Jentleson, communications director for Reid, said in a statement.

Jentleson added Reid was "diagnosed with broken bones in his face and three broken ribs, as well as a concussion." Jentleson said Reid continues to work from home and has spoken with President Obama multiple times since he was injured.

Reid tweeted a remarkable photo of himself holding a meeting with Senate Democratic leadership at his Washington, D.C., home. This is the first photo of Reid after his exercise accident, and he is seen with a bandage strapped across the right side of his face.

-- Arlette Saenz

Snowy Welcome for 114th Congress

The 114th Congress got a chilly welcome on Capitol Hill this morning, where snow has been falling since the early hours. Looks like members from warmer states are already feeling homesick:

-- Erin Dooley

Why the Congressional Black Caucus Made History Today

The Congressional Black Caucus' ceremonial swearing-in this morning was unlike any before because it was the largest since its establishment in 1971. A record 46 members took the oath of office today, with five newly elected members sworn in.

Most of the caucus comes from the House. Only two delegates, both Democratic women, and one senator, Cory Booker, D-N.J. have been sworn-in.

The make-up is nearly 50-50, with 26 male members and 20 female members. The lone Republican member is Rep. Mia Love of Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

In the overall 114th Congress, there will be 44 African-Americans serving in the House and two in the Senate.

-- Veronica Stracqualursi

Veep Watch: Why Today Is the Best Day for Biden-Watching on Capitol Hill

As president of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden today will preside over freshman lawmakers' mock swearings-in.

The notoriously gaffe-prone Veep will spend the day posing for photos with senators and their families on the floor of the upper chamber, presenting ample opportunity for one or two good “Bidenisms."

In 2013, he was in rare form, joking with new members, complementing their spouses and showering babies and grandmothers alike with kisses.

Check out these highlights from the 113th Congress:

-- Erin Dooley

-- Arlette Saenz

Boehner Poised to Win Third Term as House Speaker

No additional House Republicans in the past 24 hours have announced they will oppose Boehner. To date, just 10 have publicly said they won't vote for him.

But there is always a distant fear, no matter how slim the odds, that perhaps a group of 20 to 25 others have been able to keep the secret to themselves and Boehner could be upset.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told reporters Monday night the number was growing and upsetting Boehner was possible. Nearly 30 will have to oppose Boehner to take the election to a second ballot, depending on how many members miss the vote.

Voting begins at about 12:40 p.m. and should take about an hour.

-- John Parkinson