The members of the new 110th Congress - both Democrats and Republicans - have an enormous opportunity to raise public confidence in this institution, to make real progress on the critical priorities facing the American people, and to answer the voters' clear message to take our nation in a new direction.
This is a historic opportunity that we must seize - through our commitment to a legislative process that is more inclusive, deliberative and civil, and our determination to pursue and achieve the possibilities that lie before us.
The political sea change that occurred last November was not an invitation to reflexive partisanship. Rather, it was an exhortation by voters - who are weary of political acrimony - to their elected representatives to overcome our differences, work together and produce demonstrable results.
Our willingness to work together - across party lines - was the message that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and I delivered to President Bush in a White House meeting two days after the mid-term elections. And, it is the same message that I have conveyed personally to House Republican Leader John Boehner, Whip Roy Blunt and many other colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
Boehner's statement on the opening day of this new Congress that "we also want to work with the incoming [Democratic] majority for the good of the nation" was as refreshing and welcome as his call for civility.
I, too, share a deep commitment to fostering an environment in which incisive, insightful and civil debate characterizes our discourse - and I believe openness and regular order will elevate the public esteem in which this Congress is held.
Civility, after all, is not a sign of weakness; it is a symbol of strength and a strong statement of security in one's position. Moreover, it is the foundation of cooperation and consensus that in turn are prerequisites to real legislative accomplishment - as we have witnessed in this new Congress.
In the first two weeks of this session, the House has passed the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate, reinstated the pay-as-you-go budget rules that were essential to restoring fiscal discipline in the 1990s, and enacted new rules designed to increase civility - all with strong (in one case unanimous) bipartisan support.
In addition, we passed all six items in the Democratic majority's "100 Hours" agenda, fulfilling our campaign pledge to immediately implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, raise the federal minimum wage, promote stem cell research, require the government to negotiate lower drug prices, cut student loan interest rates and repeal taxpayer subsidies to energy companies.
Each of these bills passed with bipartisan support, with an average of 62 Republican votes.
Without question, this is a strong record of accomplishment. But our work has only just begun.
In the months ahead, it is incumbent upon us to pass and enact a fiscally responsible budget that meets our national priorities and reflects our values. We simply cannot continue to run dangerous deficits and plunge our children and grandchildren into deep debt that threatens our economic prosperity and national security.
We also must take the initiative on energy independence and global warming, and achieve immigration reform. Furthermore, we must not flinch from addressing our nation's health insurance crisis or the looming demographic challenges facing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. All require bipartisan solutions and bipartisan support.
Finally, I believe the members of this Congress must fulfill our fundamental obligation to conduct meaningful oversight of the executive branch - on issues ranging from the treatment of foreign detainees in American custody, to the rebuilding efforts in Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, to the conduct of the continuing war in Iraq.
The Bush administration has received a virtual blank check from Congress in pursuit of its Iraq policy, despite its egregious miscalculations and misjudgments. It is long past time to reverse this trend. There is deep skepticism on both sides of the aisle toward the administration's latest proposal to escalate the American presence in Iraq, and we must ask tough questions and make the administration justify it. That oversight has begun - and must continue.
In this new Congress, the Democratic majority in the House is determined to sustain the hope and optimism that have characterized our opening days. We embrace our responsibility to lead, govern effectively and produce results. And, we will continue to reach across the aisle and seek bipartisan consensus whenever possible, always mindful of the astute observation of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, who said:
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."
Hoyer is majority leader of the House.