New senator Scott Brown sure gets down to Republican business

Republican Scott Brown took over the seat of the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy on Thursday, vowing to be an independent voice in a bitterly divided Senate. (Feb. 4)
Friday, February 5, 2010

Great. Here comes one more model prone to sudden acceleration.

Another Toyota? Actually, no. This one is Scott Brown, as of Thursday the junior senator from Massachusetts.

Brown, the surprise victor in last month's special election, had raised no objection to taking his oath of office on Feb. 11. But then conservative commentators complained that he was dilly-dallying; the Boston Herald's Howie Carr accused him on Wednesday of taking "a three-week victory lap."

So, in one of his first major decisions since winning election, the Republican made his choice: He would cave in to his conservative critics. He requested -- no, demanded! -- that he be seated promptly -- no, immediately! -- so that he could start to do the important work of being a senator. Democratic Senate leaders complied with his demand (they even let him have Ted Kennedy's primo office suite), and Vice President Biden made time to swear in Brown on the Senate floor at 5 p.m. Thursday.

"It's really time to get to work," the new senator announced, certification papers in hand, as he got out of an SUV -- he left "the truck" at home -- outside the Russell Senate Office Building.

And so Brown got down to work. His first official act after taking the oath: holding a news conference. The Senate, having no business left to conduct, went into a quorum call. Senators had already taken their last vote of the week and most were hurrying out of town for three days ahead of the snowstorm.

Welcome to the Senate, Mr. Brown.

Brown's surprise victory impressed many people, none more than Brown himself. He went on ABC News's "This Week" on Sunday and declined to rule out a run for the presidency. "I don't have any exploratory committees started," he demurred. The host, Barbara Walters, also showed him the three-decade-old copy of Cosmo in which he posed nude. "Do I regret doing that?" Brown asked. "No."

Senator Centerfold's looks landed him in a "Saturday Night Live" skit over the weekend in which Brown, played by Jon Hamm, set off fantasies among Democratic leaders, and led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's character to exclaim, "Oooh, Mama like."

But they don't like the way he votes, so hours before Brown's arrival, Senate Democrats used their 60-vote majority one final time, breaking a Republican filibuster and confirming Patricia Smith to be solicitor in the Labor Department.

Still, the urgency requiring the hastily arranged swearing-in ceremony was something of a puzzle. Democrats had already agreed that their health-care reform bill was dead, so that couldn't explain it.

Was he rushing to town to vote against a jobs bill? That would be awkward, because Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, is a co-sponsor of one of its main provisions. He may have been in a hurry to block Obama's nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, but this was hardly top priority for Massachusetts voters.

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