House of Representatives
Republican John Boehner is expected to become the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, after his party won the majority in that chamber in Tuesday's midterm elections.
Boehner delivered an emotional speech Tuesday night as the results were tallied. He said the American people have sent a message to President Barack Obama that the country needs to change course. He also said his Republican majority in the House willl stand for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.
The House speaker is the top-ranking position in the chamber and is elected by members of the party in power. The speaker helps set the party's legislative agenda and may preside over House debates, in addition to fulfilling regular duties representing his or her congressional district.
If chosen by his party, Boehner will replace Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Boehner has been the top-ranking member of the Republican minority in the House since 2006.
Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1990, becoming one of a group of seven freshman congressmen who gained notoriety by exposing corruption within the lawmaking body. He is the sole member of that group still in office.
Boehner quickly became a top adviser of Newt Gingrich, the Republican leader in the House who became speaker when the party took control in 1994. Boehner helped draft and sell the party's Contract With America.
A small business owner from the midwestern state of Ohio, he has led opposition to recent White House initiatives such as health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade emissions control policy. His official biography says he prioritizes education reform and elimination of wasteful spending.
The Next House Speaker?
President Barack Obama repeatedly singled out Boehner in a September economic speech, bringing his name to national attention. The president said the minority leader and his party have "no new ideas" and would return the country to tax cuts and corporate loopholes that the White House blames for the financial crisis.
Boehner's selection as House speaker is not automatic. House members must vote for their new leadership after all take their seats in January. Democrats will vote for their top-ranked position: House minority leader.
The new balance of power in the U.S. Congress could have a significant impact on international issues now that the House of Representatives has a Republican majority and Senate Democrats have lost several seats.
President Barack Obama has said he would like to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the middle of next year, if battlefield conditions allow. Analysts say more Republicans in Congress could lead to greater support for the Afghan war in the short term. It could also create conflict if Democrats press for the beginning of a withdrawal next year.
The Republican agenda also includes a pledge to remain tough on terrorism and to press for a more comprehensive missile defense system. Republican gains in the House and Senate could also lend weight to critics' charges that the president has not been tough enough on Iran and its potential development of a nuclear weapon.
The Republican gains may also allow conservatives to press Mr. Obama to be more assertive on disagreements with Russia and China. They could complicate efforts to ratify a new strategic arms reduction treaty (the START-ONE treaty) with Russia that expired last year. Critics say its ratification would weaken U.S. defenses, a notion Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats reject.