Boehner Retains Speaker’s Post, but Dissidents Nip at His Heels

Mr. Boehner, in his opening address to the new House, indicated that the Republican majority would make the federal debt and deficit its singular focus. He also delivered a blunt message to those he sees as more interested in stirring dissension and scoring political points than in being constructive.

“If you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place,” an emotional Mr. Boehner said, calling for the House to focus on results. “The door is behind you.”

In the Senate as well, hard feelings from the old Congress were reverberating in the new.

The Democratic leadership said it would hold off on efforts to limit the filibuster while negotiations with Republicans about procedural changes continued. But more junior Democrats suggested that they were not done pressing to diminish the power of the filibuster, even if that meant taking the extraordinary step of changing the Senate rules with a simple majority vote — an approach dubbed “the nuclear option.”

“The Senate is broken,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon.

As the 113th Congress convened just after noon, leaders of both parties in both chambers tried to strike a note of comity after the struggles of a Congress marred by acrimony almost to its final minutes.

The children and grandchildren of members romped through the House chamber, and lawmakers clapped one another on the back. The young son of Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, slept, slumped against his father. Newly elected Representative Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, displayed her grievous wounds from the war in Iraq, wearing a skirt that revealed two prosthetic legs, with red pumps on her feet.

“I hope with all my heart that we will find common ground that is a higher, better place for our country,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, before she handed the gavel to Mr. Boehner. “Surely we can be touched by the better angels of our nature.”

But discord was on plain display in the roll call vote for speaker as Mr. Boehner weathered defections from the rank and file to defeat Ms. Pelosi by a vote of 220 to 192. Other nominees — among them the defeated House member and Tea Party firebrand Allen B. West of Florida; Mr. Boehner’s own second-in-command, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia; and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell — drew 14 protest votes from members of both parties.

The tension around Mr. Boehner, who was elected unanimously by House Republicans two years ago, showed in the long, pomp-filled roll call vote, in which each member was called on to publicly announce a choice. A dozen Republicans either voted for someone other than Mr. Boehner, voted “present” or remained silent even though they were in the chamber. It was not until the very last votes that Mr. Boehner cleared the majority he needed.

President Obama called Mr. Boehner to congratulate him.

Some mavericks were members who have been thorns in the speaker’s side for two years, like three representatives who were thrown off committees late last year: Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who voted for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio; Justin Amash of Michigan, who voted for a fellow sophomore conservative, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho; and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who voted for David Walker, the former United States comptroller.

“I think it was a vote of no confidence,” Mr. Huelskamp said. “In this town the intimidation was intense. There were a lot of members who wanted to vote no.”

House Republican leadership aides denied any such tactics and said rumors of strong-arming were unfounded.

A few who opposed Mr. Boehner were newcomers, signaling a new generation of dissent. Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma voted for Mr. Cantor, and Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who prevailed in the Republican primary last year with the help of young Ron Paul acolytes, voted for Mr. Amash. Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, started his career in the House by voting for Mr. Cantor, to “send a statement,” he said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/us/politics/new-congress-begins-with-wishes-of-comity-but-battles-ahead.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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