Brian Taff reports from D.C. on new Congress

January 5, 2011 8:48:42 PM PST
At 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, on the floor of the House, there was a monumental shift as Republicans resumed their place in one of Washington's most powerful seats. With the transfer of the gavel, Ohio Congressman John Boehner assumed his role as the Speaker of the House.

Boehner's ascension to one of the Capitol's pinnacles of power came courtesy of a Republican wave. The GOP picked up 63 seats in November's election. One of those seats was in New Jersey and 4 in Pennsylvania.

Jon Runyan is one of those who defeated a Democrat. Now a congressman, the former Eagle says he's ready for a very different, but at times equally bruising game inspired by his new surroundings.

"You turn around, you see that rotunda at the Capitol, and the history, the leaders that have been here, that's something to live up to," Runyan said.

Like all new members, Runyan spent the day navigating crowded halls, moving in, opening mail, and getting acquainted.

Former US Attorney Pat Meehan is another Republican who swore his oath today, joining an emboldened freshman class that's an historically large 96 strong.

"I come down here believing and thinking in what am I doing for the people of the 7th Congressional District and those were supporters that came from a broad spectrum. So I will try to represent those interests," Meehan said.

Delaware Democrat Jack Carney, who won the seat once held by Congressman Mike Castle, knows getting here was one thing, doing something from the diminished Democratic side of the aisle, is quite another. He says where he comes from will help.

"We're kind of used to that. Being a small state, We only have one, so it's a position that I'm a little bit familiar with?you got to fight a little harder," Carney said.

House Republicans have vowed to make a repeal of the President's health care law among their first priorities, a largely symbolic step, but indicative of the rocky relationship that may lie ahead. About that relationship, newly sworn Senator Pat Toomey says he's taking it all in stride, one day, one decision at a time, a shift from the partisan tone some of his critics expected.

"I'll be looking for opportunities to reach across the aisle and work cooperatively with my colleagues," Toomey said.

The former congressman says he's eager to get started in creating a new legacy in the office long held by Arlen Spector, an icon of the institution.

When asked if he'd learned anything from watching Spector work, he replied, "I don't know about that, but I do acknowledge he had a very long and distinguished career."

A sign for certain, a new era has begun.