WASHINGTON — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) was sworn in Thursday as the first woman Speaker of the House, vowing a bipartisan spirit but launching an agenda for the first 100 hours of the new Congress that has already prompted an outcry from Republicans and the business community.
“This is an historic moment for the Congress and for the women of this country,” Pelosi said as Democrats took control of the House and the Senate for the first time in 12 years. “It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years.”
Wearing a tailored, plum-colored suit, Pelosi took the gavel from former Majority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) and said that women had “broken the marble ceiling” with her ascension to the Speaker’s office. She replaced Rep. Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.), who is out of the GOP leadership.
On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) was sworn in as majority leader, saying that “Democrats are ready to take this country in a new direction.”
The Democrats control 233 House seats and the Republicans, 202. In the Senate, the Democrats’ margin is 51 to 49.
In a jubilant ceremony attended by family members and onlookers such as entertainers Tony Bennett and Carole King and actor Richard Gere, the full House elected Pelosi as Speaker amid shouts of approval from the floor.
Pelosi is the mother of five and grandmother of six, who surrounded the new Speaker on the House floor. She promised to work in the “spirit of partnership, not partisanship … In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country.”
The new Speaker has proposed a broad agenda for the first 100 hours of the session. Her pledge to pass a bill requiring 100 percent screening of all cargo containers at foreign ports, which could come to the floor on Tuesday, caused an immediate outcry from apparel importers, retailers and some Republicans who said the plan could trigger major disruptions of shipments.
Pelosi also has pledged that the House will pass legislation raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 from $5.15, roll back subsidies to big oil companies and reform health care and Social Security.
She reiterated Democrats’ repudiation of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war, calling on the President to “articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that promotes stability in the region and that allows us to responsibly redeploy American forces.”
Charged with promoting a “vision of a new America,” Pelosi said the country should seize the future through innovation, sustaining economic leadership and ensuring national security, as well as strengthening the middle class, making college more affordable, health care accessible and retirement secure.
Reid laid out his legislative agenda with the introduction of 10 bills.
“In the first 10 bills we will introduce this afternoon — and in our ongoing oversight of the war in Iraq — we intend to address three priorities of the nation: one, providing real security; two, restoring transparency, accountability and responsibility to the United States government, and three, helping working families get ahead by boosting wages and cutting costs in health care, education and energy,” Reid said.
Among the bills he introduced was one increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour with “likely” consideration of tax relief for small businesses and a comprehensive immigration bill laying out a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. It could not be learned if a third bill implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission also included a proposal to require 100 percent scanning of all cargo containers at foreign ports.