Despite days of talk that John Boehner's future as Speaker of the House was in question, on the first day of the new 113th Congress, Boehner was reelected to his post without little drama.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., nominated Boehner in a floor speech touting, among other things, his work to fight earmarks and his refusal to "kick the can down the road" on spending and tax issues.
Each member of the House was then called one-by-one in alphabetical order to publicly declare their vote for the next speaker. 220 Republicans voted for Boehner, 192 Democrats voted for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 15 from both parties voted for others or abstained.
Boehner's recent handling of the "fiscal cliff" angered conservatives, some of whom have always been reluctant to follow his lead, and his last-minute move to pull a superstorm Sandy disaster relief bill from the floor, a move that initially angered lawmakers from impacted states of New York and New Jersey, led to the most recent rumblings that Boehner might not win back the speakership.
But two moves Wednesday calmed down members of the Republican conference: he scheduled votes on the Sandy relief bill and, in a meeting with Republicans yesterday, he promised them he would stop dealing directly with President Obama in future fights.
A visibly emotional Boehner took the speaker's gavel atop of the House dais for the second time in his career. In his remarks, he said the country faces "extraordinary challenges," which he said requires "extraordinary leadership".
"It's a big job, and it comes with big challenges," he added. "Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. These are not separate problems".
Mr. Obama called Pelosi and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to wish the new Congress well, a senior administration official said.
"The President thanked the two leaders, congratulated them and extended well wishes to all Members of the new Congress," said the official.
In addition to Boehner being reelected speaker, 84 new members - 49 Democrats and 35 Republicans - were sworn in. The elections slightly reduced the Republican hold in the House. The new partisan division consists of 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats. Two seats are vacant with the resignations of Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was appointed to the Senate, and Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., who is facing a federal investigation.
At the same time, across the Capitol in the Senate, 13 new senators took the oath administered by Vice President Joe Biden. With the swearing in of new members, Democrats in the Senate increased their numbers. 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents who will caucus with the Democrats make up the new Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., fresh off a bitter battle over the "fiscal cliff" said, "Today, as we begin a new Congress, we are afforded the opportunity to reflect upon the successes and failures of the past Congress."
The new Congress will be the most diverse in history. For the first time, white men will be a minority in the House Democratic caucus, 81 women are in the new Congress (including a record 20 in the Senate) and six members are openly gay. The first Hindu, Buddhist and women combat veterans are also serving in this Congress.
Both bodies are expected to get to work immediately. Friday, the House will vote on $9 billion worth of aid for superstorm Sandy victims.