Nancy Pelosi brought camera crews and dignitaries into her childhood Baltimore neighborhood where a street was being renamed in her honor, while John Boehner is bringing his 11 siblings from working-class Ohio to Washington for a private reunion. Pelosi was feted at the Italian Embassy as Tony Bennett sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Her Republican successor was invited to the posh W Hotel for a LeAnn Rimes concert, but he is planning to skip it.
Austerity is the theme of Boehner’s ascendancy to House speaker this week, placing the start of this new Congress in stark contrast to the more lavish festivities that accompanied Democrat Pelosi’s swearing-in four years ago.
On Wednesday, after a bipartisan prayer service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Boehner will recite the oath and take the gavel from Pelosi with the attendant pomp and no more – except, perhaps, a few tears.
Then the 61-year-old Ohioan will deliver his maiden speech to the new House, which includes a huge cadre of freshman lawmakers. Many are rambunctious Republicans who sailed into Washington with the tea party winds and are determined to use their majority to undo President Obama’s legislative record.
In his speech, Boehner intends to survey the difficult choices facing the country and pledge to “listen to the American people” and to reform the way the House has operated in the past under control of both parties, according to a GOP leadership aide.
“The American people want a smaller, more accountable government. And starting Wednesday, the House of Representatives will be the American people’s outpost in Washington, D.C.,” Boehner said. “We are going to fight for their priorities: cutting spending, repealing the job-killing health-care law and helping get our economy moving again.”
Once the Republicans are in, there will be some symbolic moves — a vote to lower House administrative budgets by five percent, a reading-aloud of the Constitution — and then down to business. Most notable in the early going will be 1) a tough new rule that replaces the Democrats’ laughable “pay as you go” system with one that requires any new spending to be offset by spending cuts (and not tax increases) elsewhere in the budget, and 2) a vote to repeal Obamacare, root and branch.