Gingrich Wins Speaker's Gavel

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Fulfilling his vow to become the first Republican in 68 years re-elected as Speaker of the House, a contrite Newt Gingrich took the oath of office Tuesday afternoon. Gingrich defeated House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt 216-205 vote that fell largely on party lines but saw a few notable GOP defections. Four votes were cast for others and six members voting "present." Gingrich's election followed several days of suspense, which reached a crescendo Monday after Iowa Republican Jim Leach, chairman of the House Banking Committee, announced that he could not vote for Gingrich in light of the speaker's admission to violating House rules. Two Republican members voted for Leach as speaker, and Leach himself cast a ballot for retired Representative and former House Minority Leader Robert Michael of Illinois. The vote came after an unusual but unsuccessful parliamentary gambit by California Democrat Vic Fazio to elect an interim speaker until the House ethics committee concludes its investigation into Gingrich's political activities. Following the tradition of newly-elected speakers, Gingrich extended an offer of partnership to his Democratic rivals -- just as he did at the opening of the divisive 104th Congress in 1995. He said race, drugs and ignorance were "vital" issues which the nation's leaders must address in coming years, both as legislators and statesmen. For Gingrich, the more pressing issue will be how to lead his from increasingly fragmented power base.