Today, Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House. She was escorted in to her new chair by the congressional committee and the large delegation from California. She stood proudly on the podium, listening to the thunderous applause, as new era was issued in for women. John Boehner handed the Speakers gavel to a woman for the first time, turning power back to the Democrats for the first time in twelve years. She accepted the gavel in the spirit of partnership and not partisanship. She introduced herself and her history to the nation, explaining how she went from the kitchen to the Congress. Noting the importance of this historic moment for the Congress and the women of America; a moment women have waited for, for over two hundred years. She said, “Today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters the sky is the limit.”
She called on this to be the Congress that supports and honors our military; she called on this Congress to fulfill the mandate of the voters for a change in direction. She called on the Congress to lead us to a new America, for the twenty first century; prepared to face the challenges it will face. To work together with fiscal responsibility, ethics and bipartisanship. She committed the Congress to pay as you go, with no new deficit spending. She called on this Congress to be the most honest and open congress in history; having respect for every voice in the Congress. She plans to be Speaker of the House, the entire House, to work for all Americans. She will lead this Congress to seek common ground for the common good. She concluded by allowing the children to come up and touch the Speakers gavel. Surrounded by children, the Congress began a new era with a woman holding the gavel, taking the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
The gentle lady from California has an ambitious agenda planned. In the first one hundred legislative hours she plans to attack ethics rules, minimum wage, cut interest rates on student loans, empower Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, roll back subsidies to big oil and use the money to fund renewable energy, fund stem cell research, and make investments in homeland security. While Republicans are complaining about the fast pace these bills will be coming to the floor for a vote, most of these were bills introduced during the 109th congress. They were allowed to languish in committees, blocked by Republicans from coming to the floor for debate or vote.
The Congress will not be taking time off; they have a lot to do before the President’s State of the Union address. They will be facing a longer work week than the 109th Congress. After being sworn in they will begin by addressing ethics standards, placing limits on the influence on lobbyists. Tomorrow they will tackle procedural issues, including the leaving of votes open passed the scheduled time limits for vote. Next week they will tackle a bill raising the minimum wage and a bill requiring Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. They will also tackle security and anti-terrorist recommendations by the 9/11 commission and the funding stem cell research. Then they will break for the Martin Luther King holiday, returning to cut student loan interest rates and big oil subsidies. Keep your checklist handy, it won’t be long before all the things on the one hundred hour agenda have been voted on.
The members of the new 110th Congress had begun the day in a closed session where both Republicans and Democrats were permitted to express their hopes and desires for the 110th Congress. They came out expressing a desire to put the partisan fighting behind them and work together to accomplish these goals. The real test in this bipartisanship will come not in the first 100 legislative hours, but latter this month, when they will have to begin hearings and deal with the Iraq war. That is when we will begin to see the real leadership of Speaker Pelosi.