John Boenher has been re-elected as speaker of the US House of Representatives, as the new Congress welcomed dozens of new members.

Boenher defeated House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi 220-192 in a vote on the opening day of the 113 Congress on Thursday.

His re-election came after the House of Representatives passed the "fiscal cliff" bill, ending a months-long dispute over the measure that averts tax hikes and spending cuts.

Boehner vowed to use his second term to shrink the national debt of $16 trillion in order to prevent it from "draining free enterprise".

The Ohio congressman narrowly won the election, as 12 Republicans refrained from voting for him. It was the closest margin of any House speaker vote since 1997.

Boehner spelled out the challenges ahead as he took the gavel.

"Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. These are not separate problems," Boehner said.

"At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state."

Boehner came under fire for voting on Tuesday for a compromise "fiscal cliff" deal, which includes tax hikes for the rich, and for allegedly being slow to approve aid for victims of superstorm Sandy in the Northeast.

Source: Agencies