The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives took power yesterday vowing to open a legislative battle with Barack Obama over the size of government and how much it spends.
The Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a liberal from San Francisco, handed over to John Boehner, a conservative who plans to stage a quick vote to repeal Mr Obama's healthcare overhaul. He and the new Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the healthcare repeal vote fulfils promises the party made in the November elections that put the lower house back in the hands of the Republicans.
The vote next week is expected to pass in the House but die in the Senate, where Democrats still have a majority. That outcome could serve as a template for legislative gridlock in the final two years of President Obama's term.
Mr Boehner said the Republicans' goal is to give the government back to the people and provide honesty and accountability. He said lawmakers have been reminded just how temporary the privilege to serve is, a reference to the Democrats' defeat in November.
He added that "a great deal of scar tissue" has built up on both sides of the aisle and cannot be ignored, but both Republicans and Democrats believe they are working for the common good.