The 112th Congress convened on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday at noon with the new Speaker of the House John Boehner in tears as he accepted the gavel from the outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The composition of the House of Representatives and the Senate is significantly different in the 112th Congress as compared to the previous Congress. First of all, Republicans have a majority in the House with 242 members to 193 Democrats. This means that Representative Boehner, a Republican, stepped up to be House Speaker. His predecessor, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, was elected by House Democrats to be House Minority Leader after a battle among the ranks of Democrats.
In the Senate, Democrats still hold a majority but it is a slimmer one. The Senate is composed of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and 2 Independents. The Senate continues to be led by a Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Republicans are using their majority in the House and gain in Senate seats to call for repeals and overhaul of government policies and programs, including Wall Street reform. Republicans are calling for cuts in government spending and limits to the debt ceiling, which economists caution would cause the government to default on its obligations.
For example, Republican Representative Darrell Issa, the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, is attempting to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, health care reform, and environmental regulations. Darrell Issa represents California's 49th District, located south of Los Angeles, and his views are in contrast to those held by the largely Democratic state.
NARAL Pro-Choice America is taking a stand against Speaker of the House John Boehner because of his anti-choice record and his efforts to use his postion as House Speaker to attack women's right to choose.
Although Republicans have gained seats in Congress, it is important to recognize that some of these seats are held by members of the Tea Party movement, who are viewed by many as extremists. Tea Party Republicans don't always hold the same views as moderate Republicans. We can almost certainly look forward to some internal dissention in the Republican party.
Democrats began the 112th Congress by calling for a change in the filibuster so that proposed legislation cannot be blocked by the minority party.
In the end, President Obama holds veto power over the Republican agenda and will be promoting economic recovery and job growth. In these efforts, he will surely be backed by Democrats in Congress.