Scott Brown to be sworn in to Senate a week early
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R) will be sworn into office Thursday, a week earlier than expected, after he asked officials in his home state of Massachusetts on Wednesday to certify his election "without delay."
Brown's addition to the Senate will mark the end of the 60-vote majority Democrats have held for much of the past year and give Republicans enough votes to block legislation as they choose.
Brown won a special election Jan. 19 for the seat of the late senator Edward M. Kennedy. He had been slated to join the Senate on Feb. 11, but in a letter to Massachusetts's governor and secretary of state, he asked that his election be certified as soon as possible so he could participate in votes scheduled before then. Brown did not say which votes he wanted to take part in.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) is expected to sign an election certificate for Brown on Thursday morning, and the senator-elect would fly from Boston later in the day to be sworn in.
Senate Democrats say the swearing-in by Vice President Biden probably will happen at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Congressional Republicans said privately that seating Brown earlier could help them block Democratic nominees opposed by the GOP, specifically Craig Becker, whom President Obama has nominated to join the five-member National Labor Relations Board. Becker is an associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. A Senate committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Thursday, setting up a confirmation vote on the floor by next week.
Republicans blocked Becker's nomination much of last year after complaints from business groups that he is too biased toward labor unions to serve on the board. But the Obama administration renominated Becker to the post last month.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent heavily to attack Obama's health-care plan, accused Senate Democrats of trying to "jam Becker's nomination through before Senator-elect Brown comes to Washington."
Democrats denied the assertion, noting that they agreed to seat Brown as soon as Massachusetts officials certified his election.
Brown's swearing-in comes as Obama is increasingly pushing congressional Republicans to reach compromises with him on key legislation.
Democrats have held a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate since Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) defected from the Republican Party and joined their ranks last April. But Senate Republicans have used a variety of tactics to slow much of the Democrats' agenda, requiring the majority to collect every one of their votes to move forward with legislation.
With Democrats now holding 59 votes, key legislation and nominations will require the agreement of at least one Republican.
Brown has said that he will not vote in lockstep with the GOP, calling himself a "Scott Brown Republican." But he has ruled out backing the health-care bill the Senate passed in December.