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Washington, D.C. – Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) spoke on the House floor to welcome the 116th Congress.

Remarks are below, or watch online here.

“Colleagues, friends, and fellow Americans, it is my honor to serve with you and to welcome you to the first day of the 116th Congress of the United States House of Representatives.

“We are here in this chamber because of the faith of our neighbors and the support of our families. We are here today to represent the voice and the vote of 325 million Americans.

“I would like everyone to pause and reflect on this fact…

“In the last 230 years, dating back to the founding of our republic, fewer than 11,000 Americans have had the privilege to stand here as a member of this House – chosen by their fellow citizens to represent them in Washington.

“What an amazing, invigorating, and sometimes frustrating experiment this is … Representative Democracy.

“The ink was barely dry on the Constitution when Ben Franklin wondered out loud whether this new nation was capable of keeping its government – and the freedom it has granted us from generation to generation.

“Centuries later, people still harbor similar concerns. They wonder if Congress truly represents them. If it is still capable of solving big problems.

“Well, there are no guarantees. It is up to us … all of us in this room … to make Congress work.

“To create and debate—just as our Founding Fathers did many years ago… with courage, commitment and resolve.

“We are a very small group with a very large responsibility.

“The burden on us 435 Americans is to represent 325 million Americans faithfully. To work together so that tomorrow is better than today.

“As Ronald Reagan advised us, America is too great for small dreams. When we work together, we succeed together.

“We are now entering a period of divided government, but that is no excuse for gridlock and inaction.

“We are at our best when we focus not on retribution but on building a more perfect union.

“But while we seek cooperation, there is one core principle upon which we will not compromise. Republicans will always choose personal freedom over government control.

“This very floor has hosted some of the toughest debates in our nation’s history—but also its noblest achievements.

“This House has weathered times of triumph and crisis.

“It still stands because it is built– not on sand–but on the solid rock of Constitutional principles.

“Today marks a new chapter in this House’s pursuit of a more perfect union.

“The country knows Nancy Pelosi as an experienced politician with three decades of service in Congress. A fighter for her cause. And a trailblazer.

“Even when we disagree with one another completely — it is important to remember that we are bonded together in a common cause … Our love for America.

“As fellow citizens and friends, let us lead together and show the people that we are truly their voice and their vote.

“In that spirit, in the pursuit of a more perfect union, and in the unshakable belief that America was, is and will always be the greatest country on the face of the earth, I extend the hand of friendship to every member of this body.

“And to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, I extend to you this gavel.

“Thank you and God bless you.”