WASHINGTON — The House and Senate ushered in a new Congress Thursday, re-electing embattled Republican John Boehner speaker and hailing one of its own senators who returned a year after being felled by a stroke.
The 113th Congress convened at 12 noon EST, the constitutionally mandated time, with pomp, pageantry and politics, on both sides of the Capitol.
Boehner, bruised after weeks with his fractious caucus and negotiations with the White House on the fiscal cliff, won a second, two-year term as leader with 220 votes. Despite grumbling in the GOP ranks, just 10 Republicans voted for someone other than Boehner.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi got 192 votes.
In the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden swore in 12 new members elected in November, lawmakers who won another term and South Carolina Republican Tim Scott. The former House member was tapped by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the remaining term of Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned to head a Washington think tank.
Applause from members and the gallery marked every oath-taking. Looking on was former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Shortly before the session, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who had been absent for the past year while recovering from a stroke, slowly walked up the 45 steps to the Senate, with Biden nearby and the Senate leaders at the top of the stairs to greet him.
"A courageous man," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Members of the Illinois congressional delegation and senators stood on the steps.
As he entered the building, resting on a cane, Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., helped Kirk take off his coat. The senator said he was glad to be back.
While the dozens of eager freshmen are determined to change Washington, they face the harsh reality of another stretch of divided government. The traditions come against the backdrop of a mean season that closed out an angry election year.