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Speaker of the House John Boehner

3:12 PM, Jan 5, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Speaker of the House John Boehner's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Speaker of the House John Boehner

“Madam Speaker, thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your service.  I’d like to welcome our new colleagues and their families.  My own family is here as well: my wife, Debbie, our daughters, Lindsay and Tricia; my brothers and sisters, brothers-and-sisters-in-law, and their children.

“I am honored and humbled to represent a great, hard-working community in Congress.  The people of Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District continue to afford me the privilege to serve, for which I am deeply grateful.

“We gather here today at a time of great challenges.  Nearly one in ten of our neighbors are looking for work.  Health care costs are still rising for families and small businesses.  Our spending has caught up with us, and our debt will soon eclipse the size of our entire economy.  Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress.  No longer can we fall short.  No longer can we kick the can down the road.  The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions.

“In the Catholic faith, we enter into a season of service by having ashes marked on our foreheads.  The ashes remind us that life in all its forms is fragile – our time on this Earth, fleeting.  As the ashes are delivered, we hear those humbling words: ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’

“The American people have humbled us.  They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is.  They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them.  That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker.  After all, this is the people’s House.  This is their Congress.  It’s about them, not us.  What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs.  A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.

“Let’s start with the rules package the House will consider today.  If passed, it will change how this institution operates, with an emphasis on real transparency, greater accountability, and a renewed focus on the Constitution.  Our aim will be to give government back to the people.  In seeking this goal, we will part with some of the rituals that have come to characterize this institution under majorities Republican and Democratic alike.  We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process ‘less efficient’ than our forefathers intended.

“These misconceptions have been the basis for the rituals of modern Washington.  The American people have not been well served by them.  Today, mindful of the lessons of the past, we open a new chapter. 

“Legislators and the public will have three days to read bills before they come to a vote.  Legislation will be more focused, properly scrutinized, and constitutionally sound.  Committees, once bloated, will be smaller, with a renewed mission, including oversight.  Old rules that have made it easy to increase spending will be replaced by new reforms that make it easier to cut spending.  We will start by cutting Congress’ own budget. 

“Above all else, we will welcome the battle of ideas, encourage it, and engage in it – openly, honestly, and respectfully.  As the chamber closest to the people, the House works best when it is allowed to work its will.  I ask all members of this body to join me in recognizing this common truth.

“To my colleagues in the majority, my message is this: we will honor our Pledge to America, built through a process of listening to the people, and we will stand firm on the Constitutional principles that built our party, and built a nation.  We will do these things, however, in a manner that restores and respects the time-honored right of the minority to an honest debate and a fair, open process.

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