Taking over control in the U.S. House after four years in the minority, Republicans vowed to cut spending by $50 to $60 billion, shrink the deficit and put the American people in charge.
“The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin carrying out their instructions,” said newly elected House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Wednesday, the day the 112th Congress began.
Boehner replaces Nancy Pelosi of California, and as speaker will be the most powerful Republican in the U.S., presiding over a new period of a divided government.
The House and Senate both met at noon Wednesday, a time of day stipulated by the Constitution reading. The first day of the new Congress was filled with ceremony and speeches as old and new lawmakers were sworn in with their family and friends present.
Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate although it is smaller than the one they held for the past two years.
House Republicans hold a 242-193 majority. They have pledged to use their new authority to take on major initiatives of the Obama administration, including the health care law enacted last year.
Democrats have vowed to defend the law, which has little chance of any repeal action going beyond the House.
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada signaled that Democrats priorities have not wavered. “We have to do even more to help middle-class families, to create jobs, to hasten our energy independence, to improve our children’s education and to fix our broken immigration system,” he said.