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First Woman is Speaker of the House of Representatives

  • Deborah Block

The U.S. Congress convened Thursday with Democrats in control and Republicans as the opposition in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in 12 years.

It is also the first time a woman has become the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Nancy Pelosi, a liberal congresswoman from California, was sworn in as first woman speaker of the House of Representatives. This makes her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government - second in the presidential line of succession after Vice President Dick Cheney. She called it an historic moment for Congress and for women of America.

"It is a moment for which we waited over 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights."

Pelosi said the first order of business in the House will be stricter ethical guidelines for lawmakers. Expected proposals include a ban on accepting gifts or trips from lobbyists.

"In order to achieve our new America for a 21st century, we must return this House to the American people. So our first order of business is passing the toughest congressional ethics reform in history."

Pelsoi also said Americans have made it clear they want a change in Iraq.

"The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end. Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq. It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the
Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security - a plan that promotes stability in the region and a plan that allows us to responsibly redeploy our troops."

The first Muslim elected to Congress was also sworn in. Keith Ellison, a 43 year old defense attorney and state representative from Minnesota, put his hand on the Koran the Muslim holy book as he took the oath of office. He used an 18th century Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson - the third president of the United States.

Democrats have vowed to push ahead with their agenda, which includes relaxing restrictions on stem cell research, increasing the minimum wage, and allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices.

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