Madam Speaker: Pelosi Makes History - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/4/07-Washington, D.C.

Madam Speaker: Pelosi Makes History

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, receives the House gavel Thursday in the traditional ceremony. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, receives the House gavel Thursday in the traditional ceremony.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives on Thursday, as Democrats took control of both chambers of Congress.

"I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship," Pelosi said, taking the symbol of her new job from Republican minority leader John Boehner.

Cheers of the Democrats almost drowned out the clerk of the House's announcement that Pelosi was elected speaker by 233 votes to 202 -- reflecting the number of seats held by each party. (Watch jubilant congressmen as the House makes history Video)

In the Senate, Harry Reid took charge as majority leader, sealing the power shift to the Democrats who have spent most of the past dozen years in the minority.

Pelosi stressed that she wanted cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, echoing similar calls by President Bush on Wednesday as well as Boehner, who addressed the House before her.

"In this House, we may be different parties, but we serve one country," she said.

Pelosi noted that her election marked "an historic moment for the women of America" before moving on to promote her party's agenda. (Watch Pelosi celebrate breaking 'the marble ceiling' Video)

She urged Congress to hit the ground running and pass legislation quickly to ensure it will be the "most honest and open Congress in history."

Starting with lobbying reform, the Democrats want to use the first 100 hours of legislative work of the new Congress to push raises to the national minimum raise, implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and reduce prescription costs for seniors and college loan interest rates for students. (Watch to see what the Democratic-led Congress might accomplish Video)

Reid outlined the same agenda, but said the Senate would maintain its historical role to review legislation at a slower pace.

A national poll released this week showed Democrats have strong support for nearly all the measures they want to pass in their first days in charge. But Democrats' thin hold on power ensures that any successful legislation must have at least some GOP support.

The Senate is divided 51-49, with two senators elected as independents caucusing with the Democrats. South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson, who is recovering from a brain hemorrhage, was not present.

Integrity tops to-do list

Before the House and Senate were called to order, Reid invited both Democrats and Republicans to a rare closed-door conference Thursday in the Old Senate Chamber in hopes of setting a bipartisan mood after years of political rancor.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the meeting gave senators in both parties "a chance to express some of their quiet frustrations [about] the level of partisanship that we've witnessed in recent years," according to The Associated Press.

After passage of a series of routine resolutions -- including elevating 89-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, as President Pro Tempore, third in the line of presidential succession -- the Senate floor opened for business. (Watch Dick Cheney and Robert Byrd signal the transfer of power Video)

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters that Democrats would move quickly on rules changes.

"On Thursday and Friday, we're going to adopt rules that will change the way the people's House operates to ensure its integrity, to ensure its openness and to ensure its transparency," Hoyer said Wednesday.

Tighter restrictions on spending earmarks, lobbying, gifts and travel will be proposed, Democratic House leaders said. (View what House Democrats pledge to pass in the first 100 legislative hour)

A $2.10 hourly increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 is among six bills Democrats pledged to advance in their first 100 hours of making new laws next week, after members are seated and committees are organized.

The minimum wage was last increased in 1997. Democrats want to phase increases over two years, a proposal that has drawn conditional support from President Bush. (Minimum wages by state)

But they may face a tougher hurdle in efforts to repeal Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. In the only veto of his presidency to date, Bush killed a similar bill that passed with bipartisan support last year -- and White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday that the president's position has not changed.

The schedule for the 100 legislative hours stretches from Tuesday through January 18, five days ahead of Bush's State of the Union address.

Grandchildren and grand stars

Cheers and children were key components of the opening ceremonies in the House, with congressmen bringing their families to witness their swearing in.

Pelosi was escorted into the House chamber by her grandchildren. She greeted colleagues with hugs and handshakes as her family walked beside her and later invited all the children present to come up to the speaker's chair for a chance to touch the gavel.

Among guests watching from Pelosi's box in the House gallery were singers Tony Bennett and Carole King, and actor Richard Gere.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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