WASHINGTON (Talon News) — On Tuesday, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) opened the 109th session of Congress after being elected to his fourth consecutive term as speaker of the House. During his remarks, Hastert thanked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for leading with “honor and distinction” while noting that the two “have disagreed on policy matters in the past” and will likely “disagree again in the future.”
“Nancy, we have some serious issues to confront in this new Congress, and I look forward to a vigorous debate in the months ahead,” Speaker Hastert said.
The House speaker added, “For it is through debate, that we arrive at the policy decisions that will keep this nation safe and make it stronger. This House is where we fight the battle of ideas, and at the end of the day, we make the laws that govern this nation. And so it is a great honor to serve in this institution. It is a special honor to sit in this chair. I thank each of you for allowing me once again to serve as your Speaker.”
In welcoming the House members, Hastert focused on the thirty-eight new members, three of whom are returning after previous service in the House.
“Twenty-two of the new Members served in the state legislatures,” Hastert said. “Ten served in local government. For only the second time in the history of this House, this class includes a Member whose ancestry is from the world’s largest democracy, the nation of India.”
Speaker Hastert, in pointing out the challenges facing the new Congress, said that the top priority is to make America safe “from those who would do us great harm.”
“Each day, we are reminded of that monstrous attack on September 11th, 2001, that killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens,” the House speaker recalled. “And each day, this Congress has taken important steps to make this country safer from the terrorists who seek to attack us again. In the 107th Congress, we created the Department of Homeland Security, the USA Patriot Act and The Visa and Border Security Act. In the 108th Congress, we created the Director of National Intelligence. In this 109th Congress, we have to continue making progress.”
Hastert added, “We need to strengthen our borders, reform our asylum laws, and improve national standards for driver’s licenses. The terrorists who attacked us did so by exploiting gaps in our border security system, by abusing our immigration laws and by abusing the freedoms that every American takes for granted yet hold so dear. We must fill those gaps.”
The war on terror was not the only issue which impacts long term security, as Hastert also spoke of getting “our fiscal house in order.”
“The president has laid out a bold reform agenda,” Hastert said. “We need to move aggressively on this reform agenda to protect our nation from a looming fiscal crisis. This Congress and its predecessors have a covenant with older Americans. We have repeatedly promised to keep Social Security strong so it is there to protect today’s seniors and is available to our children and grandchildren. But to keep it safe, we need to make some important changes.”
Hastert becomes only the second Republican in history to be elected to four consecutive terms as speaker, joining former Speaker Joseph Cannon (R-IL) who served from 1903 through the 61st Congress with began on March 15, 1909.