Leaders of the newborn 115th Congress told their colleagues today that the United States is in the middle of another peaceful transition of power, and that love of country will bind them together in the coming days.
The Senate swore in 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents. It brought Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., back as Senate majority leader. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. succeeded Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the Senate minority leader.
The House swore in 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is returning as House speaker, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is returning as the House minority leader.
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Many House members took advantage of swearing-in ceremony rules that let them bring young children and grandchildren onto the House floor. One young attendee brought a baby doll.
Pelosi, who spoke before Ryan, in proceedings streamed live on the web, talked about her friendship with Ryan, and about House Democrats’ interest in working with Republicans to find areas of common ground. She held up the House gavel.
“This is the people’s House,” Pelosi said. “This is the people’s gavel. In the people’s name, it is my privilege to hand the gavel to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan talked about a sense of potential. (Photo: Ryan’s office)
Ryan said the recent election campaign season “was a little intense.”
“When you’re in the heat of the kind of campaign we had, you start to wonder, ‘Will the tempers ever cool?’” Ryan said.
Today, with all of the beaming children, proud spouses and proud parents in the House, “there’s no sense of foreboding,” Ryan said. “There’s only a sense of potential.”
“The hue and cry of campaigns, the rancor of the dissension… In the end, they all dissolve in the silent and peaceful transfer of power,” Ryan said. “For all of our arguments and all of our differences, we are all united by a deep, abiding love of our country. It is this slender but sturdy thread that holds us together. We always seem to forget this, but it has never failed us.”
Pelosi said Democrats will hold their ground against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act or weaken Medicare. But she added that Democrats want to work with Republicans on many of the issues President-elect Donald Trump and other Republicans have talked about, such as helping Americans balance work and family life.
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Ryan said Republican House members’ share Democrats’ interest in providing help for the unemployed and care for the sick.
Ryan said he wants to make the House work better, and pass more bills through the conventional legislative process.
He cited House work on the new 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that includes a provision that lets small employers use qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements to reimburse employees for individual major medical insurance premiums, as an example of lawmakers’ ability to work together to pass bills.