House Re-Elects Boehner Speaker

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has re-elected embattled Republican John Boehner speaker.

The
Ohio lawmaker won a second, two-year term as leader with 220 votes,
losing just a handful of votes in the Republican-controlled chamber.

The election of the speaker came as the House and Senate ushered in a new Congress Thursday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The
House and Senate ushered in a new Congress Thursday, hewing to
tradition and hailing one of its own who returned a year after being
felled by a stroke.

The 113th Congress
convened at 12 noon EST, the constitutionally mandated time, with pomp,
pageantry – and of course, politics – on both sides of the Capitol.

In
the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden swore in 12 new members elected in
November, lawmakers who won another term and South Carolina Republican
Tim Scott. The former House member was tapped by Gov. Nikki Haley to
fill the remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned to head a
Washington think tank.

Applause from members and the gallery marked every oath-taking. Looking on was former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Shortly
before the session, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who had been absent for the
past year while recovering from a stroke, slowly walked up the 45 steps
to the Senate, with Biden nearby and the Senate leaders at the top of
the stairs to greet him.

“A courageous man,”
said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Members of the Illinois
congressional delegation and senators stood on the steps.

As
he entered the building, resting on a cane, Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin,
D-W.Va., helped Kirk take off his coat. The senator said he was glad to
be back.

In the House, members were electing
the speaker, with John Boehner poised to win another term. The speaker
will then swear in the lawmakers in the afternoon.

While
the dozens of eager freshmen are determined to change Washington, they
face the harsh reality of another stretch of divided government. The
traditions come against the backdrop of a mean season that closed out an
angry election year.

A deal to avert the
“fiscal cliff” of big tax increases and spending cuts split the parties
in New Year's Day votes, and the House's failure to vote on a Superstorm
Sandy aid package before adjournment prompted GOP recriminations
against the leadership.

“There's a lot of
hangover obviously from the last few weeks of this session into the new
one, which always makes a fresh start a lot harder,” Rep. Kevin Brady,
R-Texas, said.

For all the change of the next Congress, the new bosses are the same as the old bosses.

President
Barack Obama secured a second term in the November elections, and
Democrats tightened their grip on the Senate for a 55-45 edge in the new
two-year Congress, ensuring that Reid will remain in charge.
Republicans maintained their majority in the House but will have a
smaller advantage, 233-200. Former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s
Illinois seat and the one held by South Carolina Republican Tim Scott,
the state's next senator, will be the two vacancies.

Boehner,
R-Ohio, has faced a bruising few weeks with his fractious GOP caucus
but seemed poised to win another term as speaker. He mollified angry
Republicans from New York and New Jersey on Wednesday with the promise
of a vote Friday on $9 billion of the storm relief package and another
vote on the remaining $51 billion on Jan. 15.

The GOP members quickly abandoned their chatter about voting against the speaker.

The
new Congress still faces the ideological disputes that plagued the
dysfunctional 112th Congress, one of the least productive in more than
60 years. Tea party members within the Republican ranks insist on fiscal
discipline in the face of growing deficits and have pressed for deep
cuts in spending as part of a reduced role for the federal government.
Democrats envision a government with enough resources to help the less
fortunate and press for the wealthiest to pay more in taxes.

“We
can only hope for more help,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was
re-elected in November. “Any time you have new members arriving you have
that expectation of bringing fresh ideas and kind of a vitality that is
needed. We hope that they're coming eager to work hard and make some
difficult decisions and put the country first and not be bogged down
ideologically.”

The next two months will be
crucial, with tough economic issues looming. Congress put off for just
eight weeks automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs
that were due to begin with the new year. The question of raising the
nation's borrowing authority also must be decided. Another round of ugly
negotiations between Obama and Congress is not far off.

There
are 12 newly elected senators – eight Democrats, three Republicans and
one independent, former Maine Gov. Angus King, who will caucus with the
Democrats. They will be joined by Scott, the first black Republican in
decades, who was tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the
remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint. The conservative DeMint resigned to
lead the Heritage Foundation think tank.

In a
sign of some diversity for the venerable body, the Senate will have
three Hispanics – Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Republican
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and one of the new members, Republican Ted
Cruz of Texas. There will be 20 women in the 100-member chamber, the
highest number yet.

At least one longtime
Democrat, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, will be departing in a few
weeks, nominated by Obama to be secretary of state. That opens the door
to former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, the only incumbent senator to
lose in November's elections, to possibly make a bid to return to
Washington.

Eighty-two freshmen join the House
– 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. Women will total 81 in the
435-member body – 62 Democrats and 19 Republicans.

In
the Senate, Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell are negotiating
possible changes in the rules as lawmakers face a bitter partisan fight
over filibusters, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide who
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak
publicly about private matters.

Reid has
complained that Republicans filibuster too often and has threatened to
impose strict limits with a simple majority vote. That step could set
off retaliatory delays and other maneuvers by Republicans, who argue
that they filibuster because Reid often blocks them from offering
amendments.

The aide said Reid was preserving the option of making changes with a simple majority vote.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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