WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- After being elected Speaker of the House, John Boehner opened the 114th Congress by referencing Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad."
In his opening remarks, Boehner laid out only a brief legislative vision, saying this week the House would address the issue of developing energy in North America, restoring the 40-hour workweek for the working class and hiring more veterans.
Boehner's immediate plans are spelled out on his official website and specifically call for approving the Keystone Pipeline that conservatives say will add thousands of energy jobs and provide energy security for Americans. Liberals counter that the project would threaten the environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills of Nebraska and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest underground water reservoirs, that serves irrigation and drinking water needs for the middle third of the nation.
He also names two bills that will engage elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, considered President Obama's landmark legislative achievement.
Boehner proposes the "Save American Workers Act" which would restore the traditional standard of 40 hours a week in defining full-time workers -- giving companies an incentive to offer more hours.
The ACA defines full-time employment as 30 hours per week in an effort to extend healthcare benefits to a greater number of workers. However, many businesses responded by giving workers fewer hours, in effect creating nearly 7.5 million more part-time workers. Boehner proposes the "Save American Workers Act" which would restore the traditional standard of 40 hours a week in defining full-time workers -- giving companies an incentive to offer more hours.
The other initiative, the Hire More Heroes Act, would not substantively impact the president's health care law, but would provide exemptions to employers for veterans enrolled in the military or veteran's health care system, essentially not counting them against businesses' employee limits with regard to mandates.
Boehner described the initiatives as "bipartisan" and invited President Obama to support them as a "sign the log jam is breaking."
Common ground was a repeat theme in his remarks, and he urged members of both parties to learn to "disagree without being disagreeable." He said it is vital to the effort to "preserve the things we all hold dear."
He concluded his remarks using "sower" metaphors and encouraging the legislators to stay focused and committed.
"Every day you and I come out here and try to plant good seeds, cultivate the ground and take care of the pests, and then, with patience and some sacrifice, and God's grace, there will be a harvest," he said.
"Along the way, we may falter but we Americans do not fall away from the task," he said with some emotion. "We do not quit."
"So, let's stand tall and prove the skeptics wrong," he challenged. "Let's make this a time of harvest. And let the fruit of our labors be ladders our children can use to climb the stairs to the stars."
Boehner received 216 votes from the caucus of 246 Republicans. He represents Ohio's 8th congressional district which borders Indiana. He is a devout Catholic.
Congressman Daniel Webster of the 10th congressional district in Florida received the next highest total with 12 votes -- he is a Southern Baptist and an active member of First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando.
Louie Gohmert, another Southern Baptist who has represented the 1st congressional district of Texas since 2005, garnered three votes. He is a member of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler.