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Andy Harris casts first vote in Congress, for Boehner

Baltimore Sun colleague June Torbati reports from Washington:

New Rep. Andy Harris, the Baltimore County Republican now representing Maryland's First Congressional District, has cast his first vote in the House, joining his Republican colleagues in electing John Boehner speaker.

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In the minutes leading up to the vote, Harris' new colleagues made their way around the chamber, posing for pictures with children and grandchildren and lingering in the House's aisles. Harris, instead, sat quietly chatting with his son in the far right of the chamber, occasionally pointing out the room's features and looking into the press gallery.

While some Republicans leapt to their feet and cheered loudly when Boehner was announced as the GOP candidate for speaker, Harris clapped politely, showing about as much enthusiasm just a few minutes later when outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi was called as the Democratic candidate for the position.

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Though most of her colleagues supported the Baltimore-born Pelosi for speaker, a handful of Democrats voted for North Carolina's Heath Shuler instead, prompting murmurs from the gathered crowd.

But otgoing Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland Democrat who has had a long and sometimes difficulty relationship with Pelosi dating to their days as aides to Republican Sen. Charles McC. "Mac" Mathias Jr., stood up and cast his vote with a flourish for "Maryland's favorite daughter, Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi."In his first address as Speaker, Boehner pledged new House rules -- to be voted on today -- that he said would increase transparency and accountability in the lower chamber. Committees would get smaller and more focused on government oversight, while new procedures would make it harder to propose increased spending and easier to propose spending cuts.

"We will start by cutting Congress's own budget," Boehner announced, prompting a standing ovation from Harris and the Republican side of the House.

Boehner pledged to be an approachable leader for both sides of the House, and promised Democrats a "robust debate" on all legislation.

"We can disagree without being disagreeable," he said.

At the other end of the Capitol, Barbara A. Mikulski was sworn in for a fifth term in the Senate, making the Maryland Democrat the longest-serving woman in the upper chamber. If she completes her term, she will tie former colleague Paul Sarbanes as the longest-serving Marylander in the Senate.

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