WASHINGTON — In the latest version of a familiar Washington ritual, newly elected members were sworn in Thursday as the 113th Congress convened for the first time.
For most of Oregon’s members of the House of Representatives, the ceremony was old hat, with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, beginning his 14th two-year term. Voters returned Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, for his 10th term, while Reps. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, and Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, began their eighth and third terms, respectively.
Only Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, who was first sworn in January 2012 after winning a special election to replace resigning David Wu, had not been through the opening of the term ceremony before.
The day’s only drama — which turned out to be anticlimactic — surrounded the election of the speaker of the House.
With no candidate running against him, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, was easily re-elected with 220 votes.
Before the vote, there had been some speculation that the most conservative members of the Republican caucus, unhappy with Boehner’s leadership during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, would vote for another candidate, opening the door for an ouster of Boehner. Because the speaker has to be elected with a majority, and not a plurality, of votes, 20 defections would have resulted in a second ballot. Two seats are currently vacant, and six members did not vote. With Republicans holding 233 seats to the Democrats’ 200, Boehner needed 214 votes to retain his speakership.
Nine Republicans voted for someone other than Boehner, including three votes for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and two for outgoing Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. Technically, the speaker doesn’t need to be a current member of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, voted “present,” and Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., did not vote. Boehner also did not cast a vote, as is his usual practice.
On the Democratic side, the former speaker, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was re-elected minority leader with 192 votes. Five Democrats voted for other candidates, including Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Three Democrats, including Oregon’s Blumenauer, did not cast votes.
“We’re sent here not to be something, but to do something,” Boehner said to the assembled members of the House. “If you’ve come here to see your name in the lights or to pass off political victory as some accomplishment, you’ve come to the wrong place. The door is right behind you.”
After Republicans retook the House in the 2010 midterm election, Boehner was elected speaker with 241 votes as every Republican member supported him. Pelosi garnered only 173 votes in 2011 when she was selected to serve as minority leader.
President Barack Obama called both Boehner and Pelosi from Hawaii on Thursday to congratulate them on their re-election.
Boehner’s ascension has been good for Walden, who is a good friend of the speaker’s. Boehner tasked Walden with leading his transition team when he first became speaker in 2011, and Walden was recently elected chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm, making him the fifth ranking Republican in the House.