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Special Report

Power Shift on Capitol Hill

It was perhaps fitting that it took Nancy Pelosi longer to say her peace in surrendering the House gavel to John Boehner than it took Boehner to say his. It was if the nation's first woman speaker could not quite believe that today was not about her.

She used her remarks to list the wonders of her party's record, never mind that that record had led to one of the most decisive electoral repudiations in modern history. At the end though, she was gracious to her successor.

Boehner, for his part, was all about humility. "It's just me," he said as he acknowledged the cheers, his new gavel in hand. He spoke of difficult times, of the need for sacrifice and promised openness in the proceedings of the House itself.

Surely though he knows that such openness cannot always prevail, lest the House become like the Senate, a place where bills go to die.

And there is something else he should know as well. Until the 1980s, the Republican Party was the party of austerity, ever-eager to cut spending and even raise taxes to help balance the nation's books. Voters rewarded that by keeping Republicans in the minority in both Houses of Congress for decades.

Only under the leadership of Ronald Reagan and others, like the late Jack Kemp, did Republicans become the party of economic growth, a party more interested in growing the pie than shrinking the servings. Voters have liked that much better and while austerity may now be necessary, it is prosperity that they want most.