WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, at times overcome by emotion, urged lawmakers to tackle the nation's debt so it won't be passed on to future generations.
"We're sent here not to be something, but to do something," Boehner said Thursday after he was re-elected speaker on the first day of the new Congress.
Saying the country was weighed down by the "anchor of debt," he said lawmakers have the chance to "secure for our children freedom and opportunity; nothing is more important."
"Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. These are not separate problems," the Republican from Ohio said. "At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state."
"That burden is ours and so is the opportunity," he said. "We know it's wrong to pass this debt on to our kids and grandkids. We have to be willing, truly willing, to make this right."
Quoting the Bible, Boehner said there was a time for every purpose.
"For the 113th Congress, it is a time to rise," he said. "When the day is over, and the verdict is read, may it be said that we well and faithfully did our duty to ensure freedom will endure and prevail."
His oath of office was administered by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the dean of the chamber.
Boehner was introduced by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was re-elected the Democratic leader.
"Each of us here today is truly a representative ... of the best hopes and aspirations of the American people," Pelosi said.
Noting the two parties won't always agree, Pelosi, D-Calif., said she hoped they could "find common ground" for the good of the country.
"This is the people's house," Pelosi said before handing the gavel to Boehner. "This is the people's gavel -- it represents a sacred trust."
After withstanding withering criticism over legislation to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts and the decision not to take up relief for Superstorm Sandy victims before the 112th Congress adjourned, Boehner received 220 votes Thursday.
Pelosi received 192 votes and 15 representatives either voted "present" or for someone else.
"The House leaders relayed that a quorum of the House has been assembled, a speaker and clerk have been elected and that the 113th Congress is ready to receive any communication that he will make. The president thanked the two leaders, congratulated them and extended well wishes to all members of the new Congress," a senior administration official said.
The House of Representatives has 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats. Special elections will be conducted in April and May for the vacant seats held by Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., who resigned, and Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was named by Gov. Nikki Haley to succeed Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned to lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
The 12-member freshmen class in the Senate includes Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, the first Buddhist, the first Asian-American woman and the first Japanese-born person elected to the Senate, Roll Call said.
Vice President Joe Biden, as president of the Senate, conducted a ceremonial swearing-in with each member just outside the Senate chamber.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., returned to the Senate Thursday after suffering a stroke in January 2012. After re-learning how to walk in the last year, Kirk climbed the steps of the Capitol, accompanied by Biden, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., among others.
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