The Moment

1|5|11: Washington

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In the two months since Republicans reclaimed the House, John Boehner has acted the humble statesman. And so it was on the day of his coronation. When Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi bequeathed to Boehner his gavel (a particularly jumbo-size one, she remarked), the new Speaker reminded colleagues that the chamber was merely on loan. "This is the people's House," Boehner said. "It's about them, not us." But the people's House also played host to Republican political theater, at least for the 112th Congress's opening acts. In its first week, the GOP planned to showcase its fealty to the framers by reading aloud all 4,543 words of the Constitution and send a symbolic repeal of the health care reform law to die in a Democratic-controlled Senate. At some point, this pageantry must give way to the slog of divided government. The new majority has plenty of boxes to check. Boehner will try to spearhead efforts to slash spending and spur economic growth, navigate a looming showdown on the federal debt ceiling and convince Tea Partyers and truculent freshmen that compromise isn't capitulation. If he can do all that, the people just may ask him to stay.