WASHINGTON – Scott Philip Brown was sworn in to become the 50th US senator from Massachusetts this afternoon, completing a dizzying several weeks in state and national politics to assume a legendary seat and immediately rejigger the national political climate.
Brown, who is filling the last two years of the late Edward M. Kennedy's term, gives Republicans the 41st vote they would need to block Democratic proposals and nominations, some of which could come within days. Brown was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden.
"Congratulations, senator," Biden said, shaking his hand. Senators stood and gave Brown a round of applause.
In remarks after his swearing-in, Brown said he wanted to get to work during "urgent times for our nation."
Noting President Obama's unveiling this week of a $3.8 trillion budget, he said, "I'm concerned that we're living beyond our means."
He also pointed to comments by intelligence officials this week that Al Qaeda can be expected to attempt another attack soon on the United State.
"This is frightening news, and we owe the people of America everything we can do to deter and prevent future attacks on our nation," Brown said. "So I'm glad to be fully able to participate in the affairs our nation at this critical time."
Brown on Wednesday had abruptly decided to accelerate his swearing-in schedule. He was sworn in a week earlier than even he had been planning. After gaining certification papers this morning from Governor Deval Patrick, Brown flew to Washington and headed for Capitol Hill, carrying suitcases and planning to stay for a while. He was delivered to the Capitol in a Cadillac Escalade, but planned to return to Massachusetts to get his trademark pickup truck and bring it to the capital next week.
Democrats are scrambling to prepare a jobs package that would need bipartisan support to pass next week. Now that Republicans have a 41st vote, they have a hand in shaping it and the direction of the legislation and it will prove to be the first major test of the new dynamics in Washington.
Republican senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa were working with Democrats on a number of proposals that could gain bipartisan support.
Democrats held a news conference today to tout the "Democratic Jobs Agenda," even as they acknowledged they had not yet reached any agreements with Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced there would a vote on a jobs bill on Monday, news that Republicans said came as a surprise to them.
Paul G. Kirk Jr., who was temporarily appointed to fill the seat, delivered his final remarks today, calling on his colleagues to adopt a more bipartisan tone. He also warned Republicans against misreading the Massachusetts election as a mandate for more partisan combat, and said voters wanted the parties to work together.
"Bipartisan comity and collaboration must replace the polarization that threatens to poison the atmosphere and impede the work of this body," he said.
Kirk's staff was also packing boxes, making room for Brown's staff to move in. Brown will occupy the same office that Kirk -- and before him, Kennedy -- had been in, at least until office space at the US Capitol is reshuffled according to seniority following November's midterm elections.
Senator John F. Kerry requested to take the desk in the Senate chamber that for nearly half a century belonged to Kennedy, and before that to his brother, President Kennedy, when he was a senator.
Brown waited in the Russell Senate Office Building prior to his installation ceremony on the Senate floor.
Brown, a once little-known lawmaker who was part of the embattled Republican minority in the Massachusetts Senate, was originally seen as having little chance to defeat Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley in a state considered one of the most liberal in the nation.
But tough economic times fueled voter unrest, Coakley submitted a lackluster performance, and Brown surged in the last weeks of the election to victory with the help of the state's large bloc of independent voters. His Jan. 19 victory sent shock waves through the political world and has stalled President Obama's drive for health care reform.
Earlier in the day, Brown's election was officially certified in a brief procedural hearing at the Massachusetts State House. The independently elected Governor's Council voted 6-0 to accept the official results, which showed that Brown won the election by 107,317 votes.
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