The House still labors under rules that are no longer endearingly antiquated (I was taken with the institution’s antique quirks when I ran around the Capitol as an intern for fmr. Rep. Tim Penny (D-MN) in the 103rd Congress just before the Republican takeover of 1994.) For journalists who could secure credentials to watch from the press gallery, House rules still ban any sort of electronic communication, which obviates the advantage of gaining that perch. I was looking forward to Slate’s Dave Weigel, that consummate political junky, tweeting the sights and sounds to us all.
Thankfully, C-SPAN’s cameras always sweep the House Floor, capturing much of the scene before the gavel falls on opening day of each congress, and though we’re at the mercy of its cameramen and directors, they never disappoint.
C-SPAN’s live feed cuts in with zoom in on anti-war Republican Reps. Ron Paul (TX and Walter Jones, Jr. (NC) talking amiably. (It’s not uncommon to notice Members who share various affinities - ideology, caucus membership, same state, personal friendship - huddling together on the floor.) If I were superstitious I might hope that spying those two of all Members first off might be a harbinger for peace in the 112th, a letting up of all the Americans and other lost in the last bloody decade.
Paul was so wrapped up in conversation - doing most of the talking - that he seemed as oblivious to the little one on his lap as she did to the pink ribbon in her hair, a curious note for a man who’s delivered so many babies over the decades.
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) has been ailing in recent years, but the man that would be dubbed the “Father of the House” if her were a British MP (for the longest serving Member) but the cameras captured Dingell looking vibrant, making good time as he maneuvered, cane in hand, through the well of the House.
A Maryland meeting of the minds: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer gesticulates while Montgomery Co.’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen faced him, smiling.
The perennially primary challenged Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) turned around a few times in the well, looking confused, trying to find someone behind him. The camera cut away before we could see who he finally recognized.
Harlem’s ethically-embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) looked exhausted, like he may have suffered labored breathing, as he signed forms at the clerk’s desk. His ordeals must be taking a personal toll. Rangel has been historically jovial and backslapping, relishing the start of yet another session of Congress.
When the new Speaker, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) made it to the floor, he was immediately besieged by Dem. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Edolphus Towns (NY) and Donald Payne (NJ). Boehner obligingly posed for a stilted formal picture with each member. Other member of the Congressional Black Caucus approached after them.
Is this a CBC tradition, to pose for pictures with the incoming Speaker each opening day? A few white Democrats did too, including Rep. George Miller (CA), a close ally to Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA), who posed with some sort of rag doll. (Another tradition?)
I liked how the House Clerk appointed two tellers from each side of the aisle to tally the election of a Speaker, as the UK Parliament for each “division” of that House. This year the Dems were Reps. Marcy Kaptur (OH) and Bob Brady (PA). The Republican tellers were Reps. Dan Lungren (CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL).
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) made what appears to be his biennial joke of asking to “Call the question!” when his, the first alphabetically, is called out. He got a few chuckles, but the Reading Clerk gave a look of an decidedly unamused schoolmarm, and continued to call the roll.
Hey, a coupla folks recognize Bob Michel on the Floor!!! After the vote, a few Republican House Members actually recognized The Republican Speaker Who Never Was, or really, the Republican Speaker Who Would Have Been. Former Republican Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois was looking a collegial as ever, and seemed to be wearing his signature red sweater vest.
Michel was compiled a record of accommodation with the Democratic majorities when he led the House GOP in its days of perpetual minority. He retired before the 1994 election, making way for New Gingrich. If many of the this Tea Party-inspired freshman class recognized the old man, it is doubtful many would be impressed with his presence.