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Boehner to Become New House Speaker

House Speaker-designate John Boehner, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Dec 1, 2010
House Speaker-designate John Boehner, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Dec 1, 2010

Republican John Boehner is to become the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday when the new Congress convenes.

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.

Boehner was selected by House Republicans as the speaker-designate in November after his party won control of the chamber from Democrats. He assumes the post after a vote by the full House on Wednesday. He is to give a speech outlining his plans for leading the chamber, which is four times larger and often more volatile than the Senate.

The 61-year-old Boehner is expected to take a more low-key approach to his transition to office than did his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, the first female House speaker. Pelosi has been selected by Democrats to serve as House minority leader.

Boehner's aides say he will take the first few days slowly, rather than imitate the flurry of activity during Pelosi's first 100 hours as speaker.

Boehner has arranged for a reading Thursday of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, fulfilling the wishes of Tea Party-backed Republicans who say the country has strayed from its founding principles.

In the coming days, he also is expected to preside over a mainly symbolic vote to repeal the new health care reform law that was a top domestic priority of President Barack Obama. The repeal effort is unlikely to succeed, as it would have to be approved by the majority-Democratic Senate and the president himself.

Boehner has said voters have sent a message to President Obama that the country needs to change course. He also said his Republican majority in the House will stand for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.

Boehner, a small-business owner from a working-class family in the state of Ohio, was elected to Congress in 1990 and was one 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.