Boehner Set to Take the Speaker’s Gavel, Putting GOP Back in Control

BY David Chalian  January 5, 2011 at 8:20 AM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, will be sworn in Wednesday as House Speaker. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

After 20 years in Congress and a midterm election that saw his party net 63 seats, Ohio Republican John Boehner will become the 61st Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The incoming speaker will begin his day by attending a 9 a.m. bipartisan prayer service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church just a few blocks from the Capitol.

At noon, the House will be called to order, followed by a vote for speaker, with lawmakers making their choice known by voice.

At approximately 2 p.m., outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver brief introductory remarks before handing the gavel over to Boehner, who will then address the members-elect before taking the oath of office.

The New York Times’ Carl Hulse has a must-read look at the new speaker and the political reality he faces in the 112th Congress. “Driven from his party’s leadership in 1998 and sidelined for nearly a decade, Mr. Boehner, a 61-year-old Ohio native who revels in his big-family, Roman Catholic roots, now faces the challenge of harnessing the Tea Party zeal that propelled him to power without disheartening those who might be expecting too much,” Hulse writes.

Paul Kane of the Washington Post, meanwhile, looks forward to the Republicans’ legislative agenda, including a vote next week to repeal the health care law enacted last spring. Kane writes: “Much of what Republicans do will be symbolic, given that Democrats still control the Senate and the White House. But the quick action will allow Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the incoming speaker, and House Republicans to follow through on campaign pledges and to try to establish their party as a bulwark against what they see as an out-of-control government.”

Following the official action on the floor, the freshly-minted speaker will participate in the ceremonial swearing-in with new members and their families, which is expected to last a few hours. The first major legislative action expected on the House floor will come Thursday when Republicans are expected push to cut the operating budgets of committees and offices by $35 million as a sign they intend to follow through on their campaign pledge to rein in government spending.

THE SENATE

The Senate also convenes at noon. Although most of the attention will be rightly focused on the House, there are some key things to watch for as 13 new senators prepare to join the world’s most deliberative body.

Vice President Joe Biden will preside over the swearing-in of the new senators, as well as the old timers who were reelected in 2010.

We are most curious to watch the vice president’s swearing-in interactions with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Mario Rubio and John Thune.

Senators will then head to the Old Senate Chamber for a re-enactment photo-op with Vice President Biden.

No real legislative business is expected to take place, but Reid is expected to refrain from formally adjourning so that when the Senate returns to work on Jan. 24, it will still be treated as the first day of the session. This will allow a rules change surrounding the use of the filibuster to still take place by a majority vote if Democrats and Republicans are unable to work out a compromise.

On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., debated the rules of debate on the NewsHour. To our ears, it sounds like there might be some room from compromise.

OBAMA’S NEW TEAM

Don’t forget to take some time Wednesday to look down Pennsylvania Avenue. It is, no doubt, a day full of congressional pomp, and nothing can really steal the show from Boehner getting that gavel in hand.

But talk of a staff shakeup at the White House has reached critical mass, and it’s more likely than not that we’ll begin to see some movement Wednesday.

POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush and Amie Parnes look ahead to Robert Gibbs’ departure not just from the press secretary’s podium, but from the White House.

“Until recently, many in the building had expected Gibbs to stay. But according to sources, he is now seriously considering an exit from the West Wing — a move that would allow him to work on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and act as a media surrogate for the president, the sources say,” they write.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton and Vice President Biden’s communications director Jay Carney appear to be on the short list of candidates to replace Gibbs.

The Washington Post looks at as many as eight people taking on new roles inside the West Wing.

President Obama is eager to have his new team announced and in place in advance of his State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

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