The Corner

And the Speaker Is . . .

Bob Costa was counting every last vote over on Twitter — he’s doing what reporters do and you’ll hear more from him shortly.

John Boehner continues in what might be the most thankless job in Washington, D.C. In his speech opening the 113th Congress, he literally showed members who are not in Congress for the right reasons the door. The full remarks, as prepared:

Leader Pelosi, members of the House and Senate, dear family and friends, fellow countrymen:

We meet again at democracy’s great port of call.  Every two years, at this hour, the Constitution brings a new order to this House.  It is an interlude for reflection, a glimpse of old truths.

To our new members and their families, welcome.  You are likely feeling awestruck right about now. History runs through here.  And now you are among a select few to share in this privilege.

For those who are returning, who have walked these aisles before, maybe it’s time we feel awestruck again.

The way our founders envisioned it, the republic would be led by citizens who recognize that the blessing of governing ourselves requires that we give something of ourselves.  Everything depended on this.  So they made each other – and their successors – swear an oath of allegiance.

In a few moments, I will take this oath for the twelfth time as representative of the Eighth District of Ohio. It is word for word the same oath we all take.

Note that it makes no mention of party, faction, or title . . . contains no reference to agendas or platforms – only to the Constitution

The one addition we dare to make, as George Washington did at the first inaugural, is to invoke the assistance of our Heavenly Father.

This covenant makes us servants of posterity.  It calls us to refuse the pull of passing interests and follow the fixed star of a more perfect union.

Put simply, we are sent here not to be something, but to do something – to do the right thing.

It’s a big job, and it comes with big challenges.

Our government has built up too much debt.  Our economy is not producing enough jobs.  These are not separate problems.

At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state.

The American Dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt. Break its hold, and we begin to set our economy free.  Jobs will come home.  Confidence will come back.

We do this not just to boost GDP or reduce unemployment, but to secure for our children a future of freedom and opportunity.  Nothing is more important.

As Washington wrote in his farewell address, we should not ‘throw upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.’

Well, the burden is ours and so is the opportunity.

There is no substitute for the wisdom of the people.  We are their servants.  As Speaker, I pledge to listen and do all I can to help you carry out the oath you are about to take.

Because in our hearts, we know it is wrong to pass on this debt to our kids and grandkids.  Now we have to be willing – truly willing – to make this right.

Public service was never meant to be an easy living. Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership.

So if you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place.  The door is behind you.

If you have come here humbled by the opportunity to serve; if you have come here to be the determined voice of the people; if you have come here to carry the standard of leadership demanded not just by our constituents but by the times, then you have come to the right place.

There is a time for every purpose under Heaven. For the 113th Congress, it is a time to rise. When the day is over, and the verdict is read, may it be said that we well and faithfully did our duty to ensure freedom will endure and prevail.

So help us God.

You might recall that last time around, John Boehner gave a sackcloth and ashes speech, talking about Ash Wednesday, as he took the gavel of Speaker. It’s as if this time, we’ve made it through Lent without noticing the suffering and injustices, and he’s saying: Damn it, people, we are going to answer for our time here. As we should. 

At the very beginning, he ad-libbed a line about his daughters thankfully being at work and therefore not in attendance. Some took it as a laugh line. It sounded more like a focus on the crosses of too many Americans, crosses that Congress sometimes could help with. And yet . . .

The speech sounded like a man looking at his own cross and pleading with his colleagues to take up theirs as well. 

“So help us God.”

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