Boehner Takes the Speaker's Gavel

House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio, left, walks to the floor of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
John Boehner

Updated at 7:38 p.m. ET

Power in the House of Representatives shifted to the Republicans today when Republican leader John Boehner was officially elected Speaker, creating a new challenge for President Obama's Democratic agenda.

(Watch a report on this story at left)

After two years of embracing their status as the "party of no," Republicans say they are ready to take the reins and put new emphasis on cutting government spending and reducing the size of the federal bureaucracy.

"The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is," Boehner said after taking the speaker's gavel. "Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. 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."

But as the House got down to business, partisan jabs also returned from a winter break, CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

"Our mission is not to redistribute wealth or tell people how to live their lives," Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor said after officially being installed as majority leader.

All but nine of the 96 new members are Republicans.

"My head is somewhat spinning because not 20 minutes ago the new speaker of the House stood where you are and said he was going to be listening to people," Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said while speaking on the floor.

Boehner received 241 votes from the new House, in which Republicans have a 49-seat majority. Outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi received 173, and 19 votes were cast for other congressmen. After his election, Boehner walked to the podium with tears in his eyes (as he is wont to do). His colleagues gave him a standing ovation.

Republicans' goal is to "give government back to the people," Boehner said.

With that goal in mind, the GOP is instituting new House rules today that put an emphasis on accountability and transparency. Later this week, the House will vote for its first spending cut of the year, a 5 percent reduction in the budget Congress has set for its offices and leadership staff.

Next week, Republicans will keep their campaign promise to vote on on the House floor for a repeal of the Democrats' health care reform package. While the GOP has gained control of the House, their power will be checked in the Senate, where Democrats still hold a 53-vote majority. And Mr. Obama, of course, retains the power to veto any legislation Congress sends to him.

"We will not always get it right. We will not always agree on what is right," Boehner acknowledged. "A great deal of scar tissue has built up on both sides of the aisle. We cannot ignore that, nor should we. My belief has always been, we can disagree without being disagreeable to each other."

Boehner assumed leadership today after Pelosi handed him a large gavel.

Pelosi, eliciting laughter in the chamber, joked the gavel was "larger than most gavels here, but the gavel of choice for Speaker Boehner."

On a serious note, the outgoing speaker praised the last Democratic Congress for passing landmark pieces of legislation like health care reform and the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Pelosi also noted that she was the first female speaker in U.S. history.

"Now more doors are wide open for all of America's daughters and granddaughters," she said.

Pelosi praised Boehner as "a man of conviction, a public servant of resolve, and a legislative leader of skill" and promised that the Republican majority would find a "willing partner" in the Democratic minority.

Busloads of Boehner's family and friends, including 10 of his 11 siblings, were in Washington today to watch transfer of power. The children and grandchildren of the 112th Congress sat among the lawmakers on the House floor as the vote was tallied for the new speaker.

After addressing the new House, Boehner is participating today in a ceremonial swearing-in and photo-op session with House members.

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