When House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) rose to present the gavel to the new speaker, he was magnanimous in acknowledging both the roots of Republican defeat last November and the historic import of the moment.
He concluded with a warning for Democrats, gleaned from his party's pursuit of power and the lessons learned from defeat: "If there is one lesson that stands out from our party's time in the majority, it is this: A congressional majority is simply a means to an end. The value of a majority lies not in the chance to wield great power but in the chance to do great things."
In what must be another first, the gavel changed hands with a hug and a kiss.
[...] Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.) shouted "Praise Jesus!" during the opening prayer.
The old fart gets wound up, don't he? I will say this about Sen. Byrd: he inspired me to get the "little red book" of the Constitution and refer to it often. He always carries one.
Today, Democrats hope to pass new rules to promote open deliberations in the House, rein in special-interest spending and lawmaker pet projects, and prohibit passage of spending or tax measures that increase the federal deficit.
Over the next two weeks, Democrats in the House plan to enact new homeland security measures, increase the minimum wage, allow federally funded stem cell research, permit the federal government to negotiate lower prescription-drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cut student-loan interest rates and fund alternative-energy research by rolling back tax breaks for oil companies.
But Pelosi herself acknowledged that her carefully constructed consensus agenda will not satisfy the angry electorate that swept the Democrats to power. Democrats will have to confront President Bush on the larger, more controversial issues of the day: the war in Iraq, military tribunals that suspend the legal rights of terrorism suspects, and warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency.
Her call yesterday for a new direction in Iraq "that allows us to responsibly redeploy American forces" elicited strong applause in her party while clearly splitting Republicans, many of whom joined the ovation.
The domestic shit's all well and good, but I remind our legislators:
IT'S IRAQ, STUPID!