Republican House Speaker John Boehner was reelected for a third term on Tuesday, less than two hours after legislators of the 114th Congress were sworn in as members.
Opposition toward Boehner grew up until the afternoon session. But his 216 votes outweighed the 164 gained by his opponent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Twenty-four Republicans said “nay” to Boehner, and only four Democrats supported someone other than Pelosi. A second round of voting would have been required if five more GOP members had moved against Boehner.
Tuesday marked the first day of the new Congress and, coincidentally, the first snowfall of the season on Capitol Hill. A fast-moving snowstorm traveled across the country, making its way to D.C. before the morning commute. NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins predicted 1-to-2 “fluffy” inches of snow in the nation’s capital for the first day of the 114th Congress.Earlier in the day, lawmakers canceled at least one planned event, blaming the snowy conditions. A chill of a different kind also settled over Capitol Hill as controversy continues over embattled House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s recent admission that he spoke at a white supremacist conference in 2002. Congress will have to contend with the fallout over Scalise, the Louisiana representative who last week confessed to addressing the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, as a state legislator in 2002. White House press secretary Josh Earnest argued Monday that the incident says a lot about Republicans’ “priorities and values” if they allow Scalise to remain in the party’s No. 3 position.
On Tuesday, Scalise welcomed the new Congress without addressing the controversy, instead commenting on the strength of Republicans as the party of “big ideas.”
“It is my hope that the president will abandon his ideological attempts to legislate from the Oval Office and will instead choose to work with Congress to solve our country’s problems and move America forward,” Scalise wrote in a statement. His party continues to support his leadership.
While the top Republicans look to weather the storm, Tuesday’s weather caused a different sort of casualty in the new Congress. Aides told NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell that the traditional class photograph of the House’s Democratic women was postponed until Wednesday. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the event as a way “to highlight the historic swearing-in of 65 House Democratic women to the 114th Congress, the largest number of women in a party caucus in the history of the Congress of the United States.” The photo opportunity made news two years ago when a few women lawmakers were tardy to the photo session, and were later digitally inserted into an altered version of the image.
Luckily, legislators had until noon to travel to the Hill to be sworn in as members of the new Congress.
On Tuesday, for the first time since 2006, Republicans took control of both sides of Capitol Hill. They now fill 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 247 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The two chambers contain more women and minorities than ever before, but are still overwhelmingly white and male, and far from reflecting U.S. demographics.
During the November midterm elections last year, Republicans witnessed a number of high-profile and controversial governors win reelection to office, including Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, Paul LePage in Maine, and Sam Brownback in Kansas. Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, succeeded Rick Perry as the state’s governor. And blue Maryland and Massachusetts both elected Republican governors.
The next order of business in the new Congress is the Keystone XL pipeline. GOP lawmakers planned to file legislation in both chambers by the end of the day on Tuesday. Republican Sen. John Hoeven, of North Dakota, introduced a bill to approve the project that would transport more than 800,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil from Canada to Nebraska en route to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. If Congress passes the measure, President Obama plans to use his veto power, White House spokesman Earnest said.
This year, Congress is also expected to tackle health care, immigration, Cuba, and the environment.
Several lawmakers took to Twitter to share their “first day” experiences in the D.C. snow, many of them longing for warmer weather in places like Texas and California.
Democratic Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada posted an image of himself with a bandage over his right eye, meeting with three members of his team. Reid, who recently suffered broken bones in his face and ribs after a New Year’s Day exercise accident, said he was following his doctor’s orders to work from home. Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell replaced Reid this year as the Republican Senate majority leader.