At noon today, the 112th Congress held its opening session. The Capitol and related office buildings are jammed with people, as new and returning members flocked to the Hill, along with protesters and other observers. Below are highlights, which we will be updated throughout the day:
2:04 PM: Boehner begins his first speech as Speaker, and after thunderous applause, starts by saying, "It's still just me." Boehner promises to work in an open manner that gives the minority a chance to be heard, but nonetheless offers a sharp criticism of the last Congress. He says the new Congress will "dispense with the wisdom that bigger is better," than fast consideration of legislation is good, and that open debate makes for inefficient legislation. He also notes many provisions in the Republican rules that will require transparency and measures to ensure Congress focuses on reduced spending.
2:02 PM: Pelosi notes the presence of Boehner's wife in the House Gallery, and Boehner is seen wiping away tears.
1:52 PM: Pelosi begins her remarks in preparation to hand off the Speaker's Gavel to Boehner. Pelosi highlights the accomplishments of the 111th Congress, but welcomes the incoming majority. She said voters will judge the next Congress on its ability to help create jobs and lower the budget deficit.
1:38 PM: John Boehner is announced as the next Speaker of the House. He won election with 241 votes, while Nancy Pelosi won 173 votes. Nineteen voted either present or voted for someone other than Boehner or Pelosi.
Eleven members voted for Rep. Health Shuler (D-N.C.), who ran unsuccessfully to lead Democrats in the 112th Congress. Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) were among those voting for Shuler, and Shuler also voted for himself.
Shuler and Matheson are both leaders in the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition.
Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) voted for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who received two votes. Five other Democrats each received one vote (Kaptur, Hoyer, Cardoza, Cooper, and Costa), and one member voted "present."
12:55 PM: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-M.D.) speaks in recognition of her status as the longest serving female in the U.S. Senate. She says that when she walked down the aisle to sign the Oath Book, she "walked into the history books." To laughter in the Chamber, she says the history of women in the Senate is short, "4-4 short." Mikulski is the shortest member of the Senate.
Several senators honored Mikulski, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.), and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Ben Cardin (D-M.D.).
12:37 PM: The Senate moves to the first four resolutions of 2011. The first is to inform the president that a quorum is assembled. Vice President Biden forgets, perhaps in jest, the number of the first Senate resolution (Resolution 1) and asks the clerk, "What was the number again?"
Resolution 2 is to inform the House that the Senate has a quorum; Resolution 3 is to fix the daily hour of meeting for the Senate; Resolution 4 honors Mikulski for becoming the longest-serving woman in Senate history.
12:34 PM: The House quorum call ends, and nominations for House Speaker begin. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) nominates John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) nominates Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
12:31 PM: All senators are sworn in.
12:07 PM: Vice President Biden begins swearing in senators.
12:05 PM: House quorum call begins.
12:00 noon: Opening prayer in the House, Pledge of Allegiance. House Chaplain Daniel Coughlin prays, among other things, for members to find a way to ensure House policy decisions go beyond public opinion polls.
Updated 2:24 PM