A play-by-play of the 112th’s first day

The selection of a new Speaker and the swearing-in of freshman lawmakers are two of the most time-honored ceremonies on Capitol Hill, drawing scores of friends and family members to Washington to watch history unfold. 

By Wednesday’s end there will be 110 new members of Congress, the House will have a Republican Speaker and a new set of rules and the 112th Congress will be under way. 

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Events will begin with outgoing House Clerk Lorraine Miller calling the chamber to order, followed by an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Miller will then deliver a quorum count followed by a manual roll call for members’ nominations for Speaker. 

Having received his party’s overwhelming support, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to become the 53rd Speaker of the House. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the chamber’s longest-serving member (a distinction known as “the Dean of the House”), will administer the oath of office to Boehner. 

After being led out of the House chamber, the new Speaker is announced by House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood and escorted to the Speaker’s chair, where outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to present Boehner to the House. 

Boehner is expected to give a short speech and then administer the oath of office to all 441 members and delegates in the House en masse, including the 94 new lawmakers. 

Then, the majority and minority leaders and their respective whips are announced, as well as the selection of the chief administrative officer, the House clerk, the House sergeant at arms and the chamber’s chaplain, who are given their oaths. 

The Senate and the president are then notified of the selection of the new Speaker, and the House puts forward and votes on its rules, which have been known to change when Congress shifts power. Finally, the remaining committee assignments are customarily doled out.

In the Senate, the 16 new and 18 returning members who won election last November are expected to walk in groups down the aisle of the upper chamber’s floor, where they will receive their oath of office from Vice President Joe Biden. Senators are typically led down the aisle by the other senator from their state, but occasionally a member will request that a former senator from his state administer the oath instead.

Then, because photography is banned in the Senate chamber, the new and returning members will go down the hall to the Old Senate Chamber, where Vice President Biden is expected to administer a mock swearing-in for the benefit of the new senators’ friends and family. 

This story was updated at 6:47 a.m. and 9:34 a.m.