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News Wrap: Keystone XL fight looms as 114th Congress convenes

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the first time in eight years, Republicans took charge today in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Last November's sweeping victories powered the party to full control, as the 114th Congress convened.

    Snow blanketed the Capitol this day, but Republican spirits burned bright just the same.

    JOSEPH BIDEN, Vice President of the United States: The Senate will come to order.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Vice President Biden gaveled in a new Senate, with 54 Republicans to 44 Democrats and two independents, and a new majority leader.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader:

    Today is an important day for our country.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the ascension to the top spot came after 30 years in the Senate.

  • SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

    We recognize the enormity of the task before us. We know a lot of hard work awaits. We know many important opportunities await as well. I'm really optimistic.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The new minority leader, Harry Reid, was forced to work from home after an exercising accident last week. In his place, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin spoke for Democrats. SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, (D) Illinois: We can't solve America's challenges with the same old thinking. We have to address the problems with mutual respect and with a positive attitude.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Despite the warm words, confrontation loomed over the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans pushed a new bill to begin construction, and the White House issued a new warning.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    The president would have vetoed had that bill passed the previous Congress. And I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn't sign it either.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Meanwhile, on the House side, Republican Speaker John Boehner won a third term in that post, but only after surviving a Tea Party attempt to unseat him. Twenty-five Republicans voted against Boehner, a record for a sitting speaker.

    Afterward, he grew emotional as he addressed the House.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: Every day, you and I come here, try to plant good seeds, cultivate the ground and take care of the pests. And then, with patience and some sacrifice and God's grace, there will be a harvest.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Boehner will command 246 Republicans to 188 Democrats, the biggest GOP majority in nearly 70 years. One seat is currently vacant.

    The new congressional leadership will meet with President Obama at the White House early next week.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced today to two years in federal prison. He is scheduled to report to prison next month, after a federal judge in Richmond sentenced him for taking bribes in office. He could have gotten 10 years. McDonnell was once a Republican rising star. He insisted again today that he never violated his oath of office, but he offered this apology.

    FORMER GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, (R) Virginia: I have made mistakes in my life. I always tried to put the best interests of the people first as governor. But I have failed at times and some of the judgments that I have made during the course of my governorship have hurt myself, my family, and my beloved people of Virginia. And for that, I am deeply, deeply sorry.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of accepting cash and gifts in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement. She will be sentenced separately. He said he plans to appeal the verdict.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Gay marriage was officially legal in Florida as of today, and scores of couples took advantage. Mass weddings were planned in some places after Florida's ban on same-sex unions ended at midnight. In all, 36 states now permit gay marriages, covering 70 percent of the national population.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    This was a day of final farewell for the late Mario Cuomo. Hundreds of family, friends and dignitaries turned out in New York for the funeral of the former three-term governor. State police stood at attention as the coffin was carried into St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan. Cuomo's son Andrew, the state's current governor, eulogized his father's liberal ideals and oratorical power.

    GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) New York: At his core, at his best, he was a philosopher, and he was a poet, and he was an advocate, and he was a crusader. Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Mario Cuomo was 82 when he passed away last Thursday, just hours after his son was inaugurated for a second term in office.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Cross-border fighting between India and Pakistan flared again today, with word that at least 10,000 villagers have been forced from their homes. They have fled from the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, a disputed region where two wars have been fought since 1947.

    Indian officials have set up about 20 relief camps for escaping families. Many say they had no time to grab any belongings as mortar shells rained down.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And, in Iraq, 23 government troops and Sunni militia fighters were killed in clashes and suicide bombings by Islamic State forces. It was the latest flare-up in Anbar province, where the militants are largely in control. At the same time, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pledged in Baghdad to take back all of the territory now in Islamic State hands.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Back in this country, the Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog concluded today that drones are too costly and inefficient to patrol the Mexican border. The inspector general's report found the unmanned aircraft don't fly as much as the government says they do, and they don't help catch as many people crossing the border illegally. GWEN IFILL: And Wall Street skidded again for the fifth session in a row. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 130 points to close at 17371. The Nasdaq fell nearly 60 points to close at 4592, and the S&P 500 slipped 18 to 2002. The market was weighed down again by oil. It finished below $48 a barrel in New York trading.

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