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Posted: January 9, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Business not as usual for Congress

"My first memory of a congressional swearing in dates to Jan. 3, 1979, when members of the 96th Congress took the oath. My father, Newt Gingrich, was among them. After losses in 1974 and 1976, he had finally won the seat for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, to become the sole Republican congressman or senator from Georgia.

Our family moved from Georgia to Northern Virginia.

I was young enough to accompany my father on the floor of the House that first day while he and the 434 other representatives were sworn in.

It was exciting, my father -- full of energy and ideas -- beginning a life of public service.

While he was a member of the minority party (there were 277 Democratic House members and 158 Republican House members when the 96th Congress began), he was full of optimism for our country.

Two years later, the nation elected as president Ronald Reagan, whose message of optimistic conservatism resonated with voters weary of the economic and political challenges of the Carter administration.

This week, as much of the rest of the nation is packing up Christmas ornaments, trees and lights, the 112th Congress was sworn in.

After the Republican victory in the midterm elections, the House of Representatives transitions from a Democratic-led institution to a Republican-led body.

After the members are sworn in, the vote for the speaker of the House is taken. This year, it passed from Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to John Boehner, R-Ohio.

For the first time in the history of the House of Representatives, the U.S. Constitution will be read on the floor of the House during its first week of activity. Since this is the document that members of Congress have sworn to "support and defend," it is right and fitting that they take the time to remind themselves of their duties as elected officials.

Additional rule changes should result in transparency and effectiveness. Under the new rules, bills and joint resolutions will be required to include a citation on the authority of the Congress to pass such legislation as proposed under the Constitution.

Congressional committees will be required, when practical, to provide audio or video of proceedings. Committee chairmen will have term limits.

Other changes to be made include renaming committees: The "Committee on Education and Labor" will become the "Committee on Education and the Workforce;" the "Committee on Standards of Official Conduct" will become the "Committee on Ethics;" the "Committee on Science and Technology" will become the ‘’Committee on Science, Space and Technology."

Of the 435 representatives taking the oath of office in the House of Representatives this week, 242 are Republicans and 193 are Democrats.

A lot has changed since January 1979: Both of the senators and eight of the 13 representatives from Georgia are Republicans.

What has not changed is the nation’s need for an optimistic, conservative message.

 

Learn more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman at www.creators.com.

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