Congress convenes in somber mood

WASHINGTON — As the 111th Congress convened Tuesday with the biggest Democratic majorities since the early 1990s, the economy reeling and the vacant Illinois Senate seat commanding much of the attention, members were in a reserved, even somber mood.

Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set the tone in a brief speech after colleagues elected her to a second two-year term as the speaker of the House of Representatives. "As we take the oath of office today, we accept a level of responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced," she said.

Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed quick, bold action. "Some may fear the depth of the challenges we face, but I remind them that adversity is no stranger to our country," he said. "Yet in America and in this Senate chamber, we have never failed to persevere and prosper."

The absence of the partisan bitterness that's characterized Congress for years was notable.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, vowed, "Republicans will strive not to be the party of opposition, but the party of better solutions," a line that sparked widespread applause from Democratic members.

Democrats gained 21 House seats and at least seven Senate seats in the last election. Not since President Bill Clinton's first two years, 1993 and 1994, have the Democrats had such big majorities.

The economy is in a recession, and President-elect Obama has been talking about a stimulus plan that's expected to cost at least $775-billion, and House leaders plan a forum today to discuss alternatives.

Congressional Republicans have signaled that they like the potential $300-billion in tax cuts that Obama is proposing.

Biden sworn in for 7th term

A tanned and grinning Vice President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney to a seventh Senate term Tuesday. Biden will resign from the Senate before he is sworn into higher office with President-elect Obama later this month, ending eight years of the Bush administration.

Vietnamese congressman: Anh "Joseph" Cao, 41, who came to the United States as a Vietnamese refugee aboard a U.S. military plane more than 30 years ago, was sworn in as the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress. The Republican lawyer defeated Rep. William Jefferson of New Orleans.

Minnesota seat: Republican Norm Coleman said Tuesday he is suing to challenge Democrat Al Franken's apparent recount victory in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, delaying a resolution of the contest for weeks or months.

Congress convenes in somber mood 01/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 9:26am]

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