House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday pledged to make healthcare, green energy, and gun safety reform top priorities in the 116th Congress, just moments after being elected to lead the House for the second time.
Pelosi, 78, was sworn in as speaker after promising to work across the aisle in Congress and across a divided America, and to make the House business more transparent.
“Now the floor of this House must be America’s town hall, where people will see our debates and their voices will be heard and will affect all of our decisions,” Pelosi said. “Transparency will be the order of the day.”
Democrats have pledged to allow more debate and amendments than their GOP predecessors, who ruled the chamber for the past eight years. They’ll vote on a rules package later that will extend the review time for legislation, for example.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who had hoped to serve as speaker, instead spoke ahead of Pelosi before handing her the gavel.
“We are now entering a period of divided government, but that is no excuse for gridlock or inaction,” McCarthy, whose party lost dozens of seats in November, said. “We are at our best when we focus not on retribution but on building a more perfect union.”
But McCarthy added the GOP “will always choose personal freedom over government control.”
Republicans are likely to clash with the Democrats on major policy agenda proposals, particularly the climate agenda.
Pelosi suggested in her inaugural speech the party will put the issue front and center this Congress.
“We must also face the existential threat of our time, the climate crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions,” Pelosi said. “The people are ahead of Congress and the Congress must join them.”
Pelosi called for “an end to inaction and denial of science” related to climate change.
She promised to pass legislation expand gun background checks and to protect so-called Dreamers who came to the United States illegally as children, and said raising pay and rebuilding America “with green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea” are also on the Democratic agenda.
“We look forward to working with the president on that,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi took the oath of office surrounded by children who accompanied their lawmaker parents and grandparents.