House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed Tuesday to deliver results for voters who handed control of Washington to his party in the November election, as he easily won re-election to the top congressional post at the opening of the 115th Congress.
Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who ascended to the speakership in late 2015 after John Boehner’s abrupt retirement, was elected to his first full term with 239 votes. He then took the gavel stressing the need for unity and the need to listen to voters he said “let out a great roar” during the election.
“I want to say to the American people, we hear you. We want to do right by you, and we will deliver,” Ryan said.
Ryan advised colleagues they have a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” after voters installed a “unified government” under Republican control. Ryan cautioned that voters expect “results” and Washington should not let them down.
The opening day in Washington was otherwise marked by pomp and photo ops – and some party drama.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., delivered his maiden floor speech as Senate Democratic leader, issuing a battery of warnings to President-elect Donald Trump about his party’s plans to keep the next president's agenda in check.
But in a sign of lingering tensions within the Democratic ranks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saw a handful of Democrats defect from her side in the speaker vote. She ultimately received 189 votes to 239 for Ryan, whose victory was never in doubt.
On the Republican side, House GOP leaders also dealt with an intra-party headache when Trump tweeted his criticism Tuesday morning of a plan to overhaul a congressional ethics office. Just as the new Congress gaveled in, House Republicans reversed course and dropped the plan.
Ryan, though, is sure to keep the focus on Republican priorities like rolling back ObamaCare, pursuing tax reform and other agenda items – with Trump’s inauguration just weeks away and Republicans set to claim full control of Washington for the first time since the George W. Bush administration.
The new House includes 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats, including 52 freshmen.
On the Senate side, Republicans will keep a 52-48 seat majority after staving off Democratic attempts in November to take control of the upper chamber.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will remain at the helm, Sen. Schumer took over Tuesday for now-retired former Sen. Harry Reid as Senate minority leader.
In doing so, Schumer delivered a combative floor speech vowing to hold Trump and majority Republicans “accountable” to voters.
“This will be an accountability Congress,” he said. Schumer said Democrats would work with Trump on issues like infrastructure and trade but would “resist” on other fronts.
“Mr. President, it is not our job to rubber stamp,” Schumer said.
Schumer warned that if “hard-right” forces “run the show,” Trump’s presidency “will not succeed.” And, taking a shot at Trump’s favorite mode of communication, the senator said Americans cannot afford a “Twitter presidency.”
He also previewed a hard slog ahead for certain Trump nominees in the Senate, complaining that his Cabinet is “stacked with billionaires, corporate executives, titans of Wall Street.”
Schumer, meanwhile, chided his own party for its electoral shortcomings, saying Democrats “did not do enough to show American workers that we are the party that has their backs” and should take a “hard look” at ways to improve.