The 112th Congress was seated this week and Republican John Boehner was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, taking the gavel from Democrat Nancy Pelosi after fours years at the helm.
In all, 94 freshman representatives were sworn-in - 85 Republicans and nine Democrats. The GOP and the tea party rode a wave of voter anger all the way to Washington last year, taking back the house with a 242 to 193 majority.
North Country Congressman Bill Owens was among the many representatives up for re-election last fall - and he was among the lucky few Democrats who survived.
He defeated Matt Doheny enroute to his first full-term representing New York's 23rd Congressional District.
With Congress back in session, Owens expects the GOP majority to try and repeal health care reform. He says a resolution to do away with the massive bill is already on the table.
Owens says 2011 will also begin with a lot of discussion about whether or not the GOP will have legislation targeting spending cuts ready before the House's continuing resolution to fund the government expires March 4.
"There's going to be a couple of very, very significant issues which will be coming forward in the next couple of weeks," Owens said. "I think there's going to be a lot of tough rhetoric from my colleagues on the other side. And I think my colleagues on the other side will have to interact with one another to reach a consensus for where they're going."
Owens says some newly-elected representatives have been griping about legislation passed in December - including a measure to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and a full-on extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
But for Owens, who considers himself a centrist Democrat, last December showed signs of much-needed bipartisanship that he hopes will continue this year.
"We saw, I think, Republicans and Democrats compromising during the lame duck session, and now the folks that did that compromising are being criticized by some of the new people coming in," he said. "It's going to make for a very interesting first couple of months."
As for the GOP push to repeal last year's health care legislation, Owens says that's a big mistake.
"I've got 27 years of experience representing hospitals," he said. "I've talked to, literally, every hospital CEO in this district. Obviously, they're not 100 percent happy with this legislation, but they understand some change needed to be made."
Owens says that the GOP's repeal-and-replace initiative doesn't go far enough to reform health care in the absence of Obama's legislation.
So far, Owens says Republicans have only been pushing tort reform and legislation to allow citizens to purchase health insurance across state lines.
"Neither of those will make a significant impact on health care reform in terms of reducing costs," he said.
According to Owens, preventive care is one way to drive down costs. Another is charging patients based on physician performance - in other words, the patient pays for results, not just services.
"Those are the kinds of things people need to be focused on and I'm not hearing that kind of discussion," Owens said. "Personally, I believe that the legislation that was passed is moving in that direction and that's what I hope to do, is to continue to push it toward cost reduction, through preventive care and care that's focused on better outcomes."
And although health care reform is likely to dominate discussion in the House early in 2011, Owens says his personal focus is job creation.
He says he'll work hard at the Congressional and local level to invigorate a struggling private sector in northern New York.
Late last year, Laurentian Aerospace announced plans to move forward with a project in Plattsburgh expected to create 900 high-paying jobs in Clinton County. The $175 million venture aims to refurbish commercial jetliners at the site of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
"I'd like to see a Laurentian-type operation come to every one of the communities in the district," Owens said. "That's what I'm going to be working toward - trying to find what each community has that can be offered to a potential employer and get that employer into the community so they can employ people at the highest possible level."
Moments after the swearing-in of the 112th Congress on Wednesday, Owens introduced his first bill of the year: The War on Debt Act of 2011.
His congressional spokesman, Sean Magers, says the legislation aims to draw down foreign debt and place spending limits on the federal government.