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January 05, 2011 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Republican John Boehner has become the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives as his party took power of the chamber Wednesday.
Boehner said voters sent a clear message in the November midterm elections that swept Republicans to a majority in the House and gave them a larger minority in the Senate.
He said Americans want lawmakers to take responsibility for tough decisions. Boehner said the government can no longer “kick the can down the road” and said Americans “voted to end business as usual.”
The House speaker is the top-ranking position in the chamber and is elected by members of the party in power. The speaker helps set the party’s legislative agenda and may preside over House debates, in addition to fulfilling regular duties representing his or her congressional district.
The 61-year-old Boehner represents a district in the state of Ohio. He is expected to take a more low-key approach to his transition to office than did his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, the first female House speaker. Pelosi was selected Wednesday by Democrats to serve as House minority leader.
Boehner’s aides say he will take the first few days slowly, rather than imitate the flurry of activity during Pelosi’s first 100 hours as speaker.
Thursday, Boehner has arranged for a reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, fulfilling the wishes of Tea Party-backed Republicans who say the country has strayed from its founding principles.
In coming days he also is expected to preside over a mainly symbolic vote to repeal the new health care reform law that was a top domestic priority of U.S. President Barack Obama. The repeal effort is unlikely to succeed, as it would have to be approved by the Senate with its Democratic majority and the president himself.
Boehner has said voters have sent a message to President Obama that the country needs to change course. He also said his Republican majority in the House will stand for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.
Boehner, a small-business owner from a working-class family, was elected to Congress in 1990. He was one of seven freshman congressmen who gained notoriety by exposing corruption within the lawmaking body. Boehner is the sole member of that group still in office. (*)