Nancy Pelosi took control as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on a historic day Thursday as more than 100 women were sworn into Congress - a new record.
Pelosi, the first female speaker, become one of the few in history to serve as speaker twice.
The 116th Congress took office as the government approaches week two of a partial shutdown.
The chamber re-elected Pelosi as speaker, with all four of the Ohio delegation’s Democrats backing her. Dayton native and Columbus Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, was particularly buoyant: “I proudly cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi,” she said.
The 12 Republicans in the Ohio delegation, including all the members from southwest Ohio, unanimously backed Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for speaker.
Pelosi received 219 votes to McCarthy’s 192. Eighteen lawmakers voted for other candidates including local Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who received five votes, and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, who received one vote. Three U.S. House members voted “present.”
Sherrod Brown starts 3rd Senate term
In the Senate, Sen. Sherrod Brown took the oath of office along with 33 re-elected and newly elected senators. The Ohio Democrat is beginning his third term in office. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was re-elected in 2016.
The day marked the beginning of an era of divided government; Republicans had held control of both the House, the Senate and the White House since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
Local Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said he believed for much of his defense work, the change in power would be minimal. He is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and said the annual National Defense Authorization Act has traditionally been approved on a bipartisan basis. The bill, he said, “is not adopted until there’s full bipartisan support.”
Turner stood in line late Thursday waiting for the ceremonial swearing-in photo with Pelosi. Joining him were his two daughters. He was elected to his ninth term in November. Local congressmen Jordan; Warren Davidson, R-Troy; and Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, also started new terms Thursday.
Later Thursday, the House was scheduled to vote on a spending bill that would approve spending for nine federal agencies through Sept. 30 and one bill – the bill paying for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes border control - through Feb. 8.
The bill, however, may be dead on arrival: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “total nonstarter,” saying it “will not be a serious contribution to the negotiations that are ongoing.” The bill did not include the $5.7 billion President Trump has requested for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reflecting the new state of play, Beatty sat on the podium to moderate while the House voted on the bill: Pelosi had selected her to serve as speaker pro-tempore during the Democratic vote to open the government. “It’s such an honor,” Beatty said during a late-morning open house at her office which drew a crowd anxious to talk to a new member of the House majority.
Ohio State star takes office
Ohio’s only new member of Congress, Anthony Gonzalez drew a crowd that wrapped down the hall of his Longworth Building office — a crowd that at one point included House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
Gonzalez, who played football for Ohio State University and the Indianaolis Colts, greeted constituents despite admittedly being exhausted — he and his wife had been up with a sick 8-month-old from midnight to 6 a.m. By Thursday afternoon, the baby was on the mend; Gonzalez was seen bringing him onto the House floor.
“I believe in him,” said Bill Overton, a Strongsville veteran who campaigned for Gonzalez. “I think he’s an honest man.”
Gonzalez was elected in November to fill the seat of former Akron-area Rep. Jim Renacci who ran for the U.S. Senate against Brown.