New York Times: Pelosi Cites Tough Challenges Ahead

By Kate Phillips

After Representative Nancy Pelosi was re-elected speaker of the House of Representatives this afternoon, she warned her membership that the responsibility they accepted were as “daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced.”

Citing the economic climate and other pressing issues, Mrs. Pelosi said the last election represented a wish by the American people “demanded a new era of change and accountability” and she called on House representatives to work together during a time when “we have problems as grave as our country has faced in generations.”

She described a series of conditions lending urgency to the need for legislation remedies:

Hardworking, and still hopeful Americans who are losing their jobs, businesses, retirement savings, homes, or are facing foreclosure, cannot wait any longer for us to move from the depths of a recession to the solid ground of honest and fair prosperity for the many and not just the few.

“We need action and we need action now.

“Families and children without health care, and millions more who fear losing coverage or are facing rising costs, cannot afford to wait any longer.

“We need action and we need action now.

“States facing financial crises, which are threatening the education and the health of our children, the well-being of our seniors, and the public safety of our communities, cannot afford to wait any longer.

“We need action and we need action now.

Much of the day today was ceremonial; Mrs. Pelosi, as she had when she first became speaker in 2007, recognized her husband, all of her children and grandchildren who were present, and then summoned the visiting children of others’ up to her in what you might consider a live framing shot.

The California congresswoman is presiding over a Democratic caucus that was expanded by a net gain of more than 20 seats in the 2008 election; more than 50 Democrats and Republicans make up the new freshman class. The Republican caucus, on the other hand, watched as many of its veteran representatives and many moderates, retired.

But in his speech today, Minority Leader John Boehner pointed to the goals of President-elect Barack Obama, saying he had “expressed a desire to govern from the center and put the needs of our country first. I think all of you know that Washington is a difficult town, and it won’t always be easy for him to do these things. But when our new President extends his hand across the aisle to do what is right for our country, Republicans will extend ours in return.

“During the 111th Congress, Republicans will strive not to be the party of “opposition,” but the party of better solutions. President-elect Obama’s calls for inclusiveness are already being put to the test. He’s called on Congress to move quickly and in a bipartisan fashion on legislation to help our economy. And at this time of economic anxiety, the American people deserve open debate and transparency in their Congress – key ingredients needed to produce good legislation. My hope is we’ll adopt a rules package for the new Congress that encourages transparency and open debate, and helps ensure that our institution is accountable to the people it serves.”

Like others concerned about the cost of an economic stimulus package that will be considered by this Congress, Mr. Boehner warned: “We can’t simply spend our way back to prosperity. ”

Now for a few facts about the incoming House as a whole: A new study by the Congressional Research Service indicates that the average age of a House member is about 57 years old and the average length of service is about 11 years (or 5.5 terms since each term is 2 years). Representative John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, has served the longest — for 53 years beginning in 1955.

In addition, this class of House representatives includes 78 women, 41 African-Americans (that includes two delegates). There are 28 Latinos (including the resident commissioner).

For the very first time, a (non-voting) delegate represents the Northern Marianas Islands.

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